The rover detected methane levels more than 30 times above normal last week.
By Mike Wall | SPACE.com
The six-wheeled robot detected methane levels around 21 parts per billion per unit volume (ppbv) last week inside the 96-mile-wide (154 kilometers) Gale Crater, NASA officials announced yesterday (June 23). That’s far higher than the normal background concentration at Gale, which Curiosity has determined ranges seasonally from about 0.24 ppbv to 0.65 ppbv.
The new result is exciting, because the vast majority of methane in Earth’s air is generated by microbes and other organisms. But we can’t assume Martians were involved. Methane can also be produced abiotically — via the reaction of hot water with certain types of rock, for example.