Mars, we’re discovering, is a strange place. We’ve spent more than a decade having an adorable robot tool around the surface, and in that time, we’ve found mystery rocks, what appears to be a riverbed, and way more water than anybody anticipated. And now we’ve found something else we didn’t expect, according to Discover: Methane.
That’s a bigger deal than it sounds. 95% of the methane on Earth is made by microbes, such as methanogens, so generally, wherever you find methane, you find life. Yes, with the existence of life comes the reek of farts. Get used to it.
But it’s strange that methane has turned up, as until now we’ve thought Mars was utterly devoid of organic molecules like methane. Furthermore, the methane that was found quickly dissipated, which is also odd. Of note is the fact that methane can also be produced by water interacting with rocks in a process called serpentinization, so this isn’t a slam dunk in the ‘We Found Life In A Hopeless Place’ department.
Still, it’s both good news for those hoping to find alien life that we’ve got these molecules, and even better news for those of us hoping to get our asses to Mars. If the planet not only has water, but that water can interact this way with the soil, then that’s a major problem with colonization done and dusted. Now, we just need to actually get there. And create an atmosphere. And find more water…