Detecting Methane above the Clay Unit in Gale Crater Sol 2424

Around this locality in the Clay Unit of Gale Crater we have  been doing more methane measurements with the SAM instrument. This highlights the enigmatic nature of Mars’ atmospheric methane.  A couple of weeks ago we analysed a large spike at 20 parts per billion molecules.  Then a few a days to follow this up we returned to background levels at around 1 ppb. This may explain why Trace Gas Orbiter hasn’t yet identified any methane from orbit, it is transitory.  Formation of some clay-like phases (in particular serpentine) can release methane, so possibly ancient methane is being periodically released from the Clay Unit.  To get further information about biological or non biological origins – particularly isotopes of carbon and hydrogen – will need sample return, starting with the next NASA rover Mars2020.

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jbridges

About jbridges

This blog is a record of my experiences and work during the Mars Science Laboratory mission, from the preparation, landing on August 5th 2012 Pacific Time, and onwards... I will also post updates about our other Mars work on meteorites, ExoMars and new missions. You can also follow the planetary science activities with @LeicsPlanets Professor John Bridges, Leicester Institute for Space and Earth Observation, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy (PS. Previous posts in this blog can be found at: http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/physics/research/src/res/planetary-science/mslblog)

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