Nasa scientists have detected ‘plumes’ of methane gas on Mars, raising hopes of finding evidence of life on the Red Planet, it was claimed today.
The gas was detected by orbiting spacecraft and from Earth using giant telescopes. An announcement later today is expected to confirm NASA have found the strongest evidence yet of organisms just below the Martian soil.
The latest NASA findings are expected to confirm studies by Europe’s Mars Express probe, which reported signs of methane in 2004.
The level of activity on the Red Planet at times was believed to equal the amount of the gas released at some of the most methane-rich locations on Earth.
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Brad Bebout, a NASA microbiologist, said if methane is present in the atmosphere of Mars, then something must be producing it on the planet now, because the gas is broken down by sunlight within 300 years.
Most methane on Earth is created by primitive microbes, although some is produced by reactions between water and hot, carbon-bearing rocks. It has not yet been established if either of these are the cause for methane on the Red Planet.
But British scientist Professor Colin Pillinger, who masterminded the unsuccessful Beagle 2 mission to Mars in 2003, said he believed the gas pointed to the existence of life on the planet.