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Discovery of Methane on Mars Suggests Presence of Living Organisms

Curiosity Rover
(Photo : Flickr / NASA Goddard Photo and Video / CC) Scientists believe the discovery of methane on Mars suggests there are living organisms on the planet.

National Aeronautic Space Agency (NASA) scientists strongly believe that the Curiosity rover's latest discovery signifies that there is life on Mars, according to Scientific American.

Speaking before the American Geophysical Union conference on Tuesday, scientists handling the Curiosity mission revealed that traces of methane were found on the surface of the red planet.

Details of the findings were also reported in a study authored by NASA's senior research scientists Chris Webster, which was published on the online academic journal, Science.

Curiosity's discovery is a historic find for NASA since there are only two possible explanations behind the production of methane, the New York Times reported.

The first explanation is that it may have been produced through serpetinization. This is a geological phenomenon that involves a chemical reaction between water and heat.

The second theory is that the methane on Mars may have come from living organisms. This explanation is based on the fact that on Earth, over 90 percent of methane gas comes from living organisms.

"Most of the methane on Earth is produced by biology, and the hope has been that 'methane on Mars' could be reduced to 'life on Mars,' Webster wrote in the report.

"But we cannot yet distinguish whether the high methane levels we are seeing are being produced geochemically or biologically," he added.

Although there are no official confirmations yet, John Grotzinger, the project scientists for the Curiosity mission, noted that NASA is highly considering the biological aspect as the origin of the methane on Mars, according to The Guardian.

"That we detect methane in the atmosphere on Mars is not an argument that we have found evidence of life on Mars, but it's one of the few hypotheses that we can propose that we must consider," he said during the conference.

"Large organic molecules present in ancient rocks on Mars is also not an argument that there was once life on ancient Mars, but it is the kind of material you'd look for if life had ever originated on Mars," he added.

NASA's latest revelation about Mars came days after Curiosity discovered that the red planet previously had lakes. Although the lakes have already dried up, scientists believe that the water on Mars were capable of supporting living organisms.

Tags Mars, Curiosity, Methane, Space, Science

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