Tue, Mar 30, 2004
Three Independent Research Groups Confirm Finding
Don't get excited. Yet.
Three independent groups of scientists have confirmed that there
are definite signs of methane in the thin atmosphere surrounding
"This report is very exciting," says Michael Mumma, of NASA's
Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt (MD). His was one of the
findings that initially reported methane on Mars.
Methane can be a byproduct of bacterial growth, although there
are ways in which the gas can be produced by non-organic sources.
And while the spectral imaging equipment used by the three
scientific teams is good -- a great improvement over past
technology -- it's not yet good enough for a no-doubt-about-it
"These are very high resolution spectra compared with the
spectra that the PFS is returning from Mars Express," says Mumma,
in an interview with New Scientist Magazine.
Still, the worldwide scientific community is all a-giggle. "The
fact that methane is present on Mars means that there must be a
source," says Vittorio Formisano of the Institute of Physics and
Interplanetary Science in Rome. He's part of a team coordinated by
the European Space Agency. The source could be volcanic. Or it
could be organic.
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