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Posted on Friday, April 22 - 2005

Evidence for intense local enhancements in methane on Mars has been bolstered by ground-based observations. The methane, as well as water on Mars, was detected using state-of-the-art infrared spectrometers stationed atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii and in Cerro Pachón, Chile.Scientific teams around the globe are on the trail of methane seeping out of Mars. And for good reason: The methane could be the result of biological processes. It could also be an "abiotic" geochemical process, however, or the result of volcanic or hydrothermal activity on the red planet. Many types of microbes here on Earth produce a signature of methane. Indeed, the tiny fraction of atmosphericcarbon found as methane on our planet is churned out almost entirely biologically with only a very small contribution from abiotic processes, scientists say.New information on Mars methane has been acquired using NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii, as well as from the Gemini South telescope sitting on a mountain in the Chilean Andes called Cerro Pachon.

Michael Mumma, a lead investigator at the Center for Astrobiology and Solar System Exploration Division at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, presented the findings during the Biennial Meeting of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, held here April 10-14 and hosted by the University of Colorado, Boulder.Mumma and his research colleagues have used ground-based spectrometers to carryout a simultaneous search for methane and water vapor. "Pronounced enhancements" of methane have been detected over several equatorial regions on Mars, consistent with "enhanced local release," Mumma reported. In scientific terms, the methane line detected is "very strong indeed," Mumma noted. Using the high-tech infrared spectrometers, spectra of six narrow longitudinal bands across the face of Mars were taken. A spectra is an analysis of light broken into its rainbow of colors.

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Curiosity collects first bedrock sample

NASA"s Curiosity rover has used its drilling tool to bore in to a rock on Mars and collect samples.The drilling targeted a rock nicknamed "John Klein" which had already been used as part of earlier preparatory operations including the creation of a shallower bore hole for testing. The new, larger bore hole represents the first to be created in the collection of rock samples. It will likelytake some time for the samples to be tested using the rover"s on-board science instruments.Curios...

Skull spotted on Mars

Alien spotters claim to have spotted a "skull" on the surface of Mars in one of NASA"s photographs of the planet, the object is most likely to be a normal rock with natural features that resemble eye sockets and a nose."UFO spotters are claiming they have spotted an alien skull on Mars after NASA beamed back satelliteimages from the planet. . At first glance it looks like a rocky desert - but this image of the Mars landsca...

ESA prepares for manned mission to Mars

Starting in spring next year, a crew of six will be sent on a 500 day simulated mission to Mars. In reality the crew will remain in a special isolation facility in Russia. To investigate the psychological and medical aspects of a long-duration mission, such as to Mars, ESA is looking for experiment proposals for research to be carried out during their stay.During the simulated Mars mission, known as Mars500, the crew will be put through all kinds of scenarios as if they really were travelling to...

Climate change hits Mars

Mars is being hit by rapid climate change and it is happening so fast that the red planet could lose its southern ice cap, writes Jonathan Leake. Scientists from Nasa say that Mars has warmed by about 0.5C since the 1970s. This is similar to the warming experienced on Earth over approximately the same period.Since there is no known life on Mars it suggests rapid changes in planetary climates could be natural phenomena.The mechanism at work on Mars appears, however, tobe different from that on Ea...

The log on Mars - explained

Does this NASA photo from the rover Opportunity show a wooden log on Mars? Hard to tell? Then look at the zoomed-in image, and ask again: is this a log (petrified or otherwise) on the surface of the Red Planet? Duh. No. But if you read some websites, you might think it is. So what"s going on here? The quick answer is: this is another in a long line of examples of pareidolia; people seeing familiar things in random or semi-random patterns. In other words, this looks like a log, but it ain"t. Reme...

Russia plans to send monkey to Mars

In a controversial announcement that is likely to cause quite a stir with animal rights groups the Russian space agency is planning to send a monkey on a trip to Mars during which time it will belooked after by a robot."A monkey may be sent to Mars, under plans unveiled byRussian scientists. . Although the ape will be looked after by a robot on the mission, the decision is expected to spark controversy with animal rights groups...

Rover unearths Mars water evidence

Submitted by Pendekar Timur: A patch of Martian soil analyzed by NASA's rover Spirit is so rich in silica that it may provide some of the strongest evidence yet that ancient Mars was much wetter than it is now. The processes that could have produced such a concentrated deposit of silica require the presence of water. Members of the rover science team heard from a colleague during a recent teleconference that the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer, a chemical analyzer at the end of Spirit'...

Buzz Aldrin urges US to land on Mars

Apollo astronaut and second man on the Moon Buzz Aldrin has said that the US space agency needs to stop focusing on the development of new rockets and turn its attention towards landing humans on Mars."NASA should focus on sending a man to Mars and helping other nations travel in space,Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin said Friday. . Aldrin, who was the second man to set foot on the moon after Neil Armstrong, said the US space ...

Europes Mars missions get final go-ahead

The European Space Agency has been given the final go-ahead to undertake new missions to explore Mars including an orbiter to be launched in 2016 and a rover that will explore the Martian surface in 2018."Member-states of theEuropean Space Agency (Esa) have given final approval to revised plans to explore Mars.There have been protracted discussions on what Europe could do at the Red Planet and how much it might cost. . The Coun...

New evidence points to oceans on Mars

Scientists have found new evidence to support the presence of large oceans on Mars in the past. Published in the June 14 issue of Nature, the research suggests that changes in Mars’ orientation with respect to its axis might be responsible for large variations in the topography of shoreline-like features on the planet. Scientists have studied these features for more than 30 years, and the current study presents a new, alternative explanation for how they formed.Geophysicists have discovered that...

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