NASA may have found a relatively large amount of methane on Mars with Mars rover Curiosity. The gas can be formed in several biological ways, leading scientists to see it as an indication of the existence of life.
The discovery of the relatively large amounts of methane has not yet been publicly announced, but has come out after The New York Times managed to get hold of an internal email from the investigation team that is working on it. When asked, a NASA spokesperson confirmed the find to the American newspaper, but no further details were given.
The intention is that an additional additional investigation will be carried out this weekend to confirm the find. NASA may then also come out with an official message to discuss the measurements and their impact.
Incidentally, in absolute values, this concerns a small amount of methane, namely 21 parts per billion. However, that is three times as many as the values recorded in 2013; that find came as a surprise at the time because Curiosity found hardly any methane in the air after landing in 2012. What causes the spontaneous increase of methane in the air is not yet known.
Methane is a biological molecule that can be formed on Earth by all kinds of organisms and biological processes. Therefore, the existence of methane in the Martian sky is seen as an indication of the existence of life. Because methane is broken down in the Martian atmosphere, the gas found must have either been formed relatively recently or recently released from rock.