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Largest Methane Spike Ever, Curiosity Rover to Examine it Further
dudley
post Jun 22 2019, 05:09 PM
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It's been reported today that a release of methane on Mars, three times larger than ever detected before, was discovered on Wednesday. On Friday the Curiosity rover had its plans altered, in order to concentrate on this phenomenon, it's said. Preliminary results of this investigation are expected on Monday. Further information is available in the article, linked below:

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Julius
post Jun 22 2019, 05:26 PM
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What about trace gas orbiter? Insight should also detect tectonic activity if the methane has a geological source. In the absence of any activity, it may be interpreted as boosting the idea of methane arising from a biological source.
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JRehling
post Jun 22 2019, 07:40 PM
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Nice thought, Julius, but I'd say "could" rather than "should." Gas release could be arbitrarily gentle. We're talking about an unknown phenomenon so it's impossible to nail down the details. This could even be a chemical release from a source with a geological origin. But, yes, certainly some kinds of gas release would have a seismic parallel, and having the ability to check that is a wonderful capability.
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HSchirmer
post Jun 22 2019, 10:52 PM
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QUOTE (JRehling @ Jun 22 2019, 07:40 PM) *
Gas release could be arbitrarily gentle.
(snip)
This could even be a chemical release from a source with a geological origin.


Thinking along similar lines, estimates suggest the Gale crater could have punched as deep as 17kM deep, compared to ~11kM for the Marianas Trench.

On Earth, that is easily deep enough for some really unusual physical chemistry, e.g. methane clathrates and subsurface pools of liquid CO2



So, there's a fair chance that this could be related to the breakdown of methane clathrates, aka "Burning Ice", which then collect and follow the many deep fractures likely created by the Gale impact.
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Gerald
post Jun 23 2019, 06:29 PM
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Regarding the brainstorming about the origin of the CH4, I've two almost entirely different lines of thoughts or questions:
1. Have exogenic causes been ruled out? I'm thinking of CH4 bearing cometary remnants. Impacts would be seasonal, when Mars would cross the orbit of the debris. They may cause local peaks of trapped gasses.
and 2. May the local clay be able to trap CH4 of an ancient CH4 atmosphere, and release traces of it during summer? Methane is a well-known strong greenhouse gas, and assuming an ancient CH4 atmosphere reminiscent of Titan may help to resolve the faint young Sun paradox for Mars.
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Explorer1
post Jun 23 2019, 09:09 PM
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If it was a regular meteor shower the orbiters would have noticed an increase in dust impacts, wouldn't they? There also doesn't seem to be a regular pattern of when the spikes occurred during the Martian year, and Curiosity has been watching for several of them so far.
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Gerald
post Jun 23 2019, 11:58 PM
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Similar attempts to correlate presumed methan spikes with meteor showers have been attempted or suggested before, see for instance the two articles
- A cometary origin for martianatmospheric methane:
QUOTE
The areal extent of meteor showers is in agreement with the areal extent
observed for martian methane plumes. Meteor showers typically peak over a
course of hours, depositing material onto an area that can be sub-hemispherical
in extent (Jenniskens, 1995), which is in agreement with the size of the Mumma
et al. (2009) plume.

- TESTING THE MARTIAN METHANE FROM COMETARY DEBRIS HYPOTHESIS: THE UNUSUALLYCLOSE 24 JAN 2018 INTERACTION BETWEEN COMET C/2007 H2 (SKIFF) AND MARS.

And there is a long list of candidate small bodies.

So, I was wondering, why this approach doesn't appear to be mentioned in the article linked to in post #1 of this thread. A possible reason would be an analysis that escaped my notice.
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dudley
post Jun 24 2019, 03:58 PM
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QUOTE (Julius @ Jun 22 2019, 09:26 AM) *
What about trace gas orbiter? Insight should also detect tectonic activity if the methane has a geological source. In the absence of any activity, it may be interpreted as boosting the idea of methane arising from a biological source.

This linked article from Nature explains that the Trace Gas Orbiter has not detected methane anywhere on Mars, so far, but is now directing its gaze at the site of the latest spike, in Gale crater. ESA's Mars Express, the other orbiter capable of detecting methane, is also looking there, it's reported.
The article also quotes one of the scientists in charge of the methane-detecting instrument on Curiosity, as calling the methane spike 'excitingly huge'. No word, yet from NASA, about the results of this weekend's investigations.

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nprev
post Jun 24 2019, 04:13 PM
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It would be interesting to know if SEIS on InSight captured any possible tremors shortly before this event, but it's possible that the recent mole recovery efforts may have introduced too much noise to make detection of such a signal unambiguous.


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A few will take this knowledge and use this power of a dream realized as a force for change, an impetus for further discovery to make less ancient dreams real.
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djellison
post Jun 25 2019, 01:24 AM
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...and it's gone.

https://twitter.com/Shamrocketeer/status/1143312546717261824

.
QUOTE
@MarsCuriosity SAM instrument PI Paul Mahaffy confirms to #AbSciCon2019 that a ‘plume’ of methane at 21 ppb was seen last week, disappeared over the weekend.
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dudley
post Jun 26 2019, 06:01 PM
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There's an outside chance that the Mars Express Orbiter caught the methane spike, too. It will apparently be some time before it downloads its data to Earth.

It's reported that the Trace Gas Orbiter could use a methane spike of this concentration (~20 ppbv) to distinguish between carbon 12 and carbon 13. An unexpected excess of the lighter isotope could argue against geological and astrophysical explanations.
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