Something is happening beneath the surface of Mars that causes substantial amounts of methane gas to burst out regularly, a discovery that NASA scientists said today represents the strongest indication so far that life might exist, or once existed, on the planet.
The methane is released into the atmosphere in specific areas and at regular times, they found, in a pattern that would be consistent with the gas being a byproduct of biological activity beneath the planet’s parched surface.
Principal investigator Michael Mumma, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said the detection does not mean that life definitely exists on Mars, because the gas can be produced by subsurface geological or chemical processes as well.
Nevertheless, “we believe this definitely increases the prospects for finding life on Mars,” said Mumma, whose findings are being published online today by Science Express. “No other discovery has done as much to increase the chances of finding life.”
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