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← Methane discovery suggests presence of life on Mars, say Nasa scientists

Methane discovery suggests presence of life on Mars, say Nasa scientists - Comments

JoeT's Avatar Comment 1 by JoeT

Wow, this is my first post and it's a first post! I've been reading this sight for a long time now, but just finally registered. I am a bit surprised that this wasn't discovered before.

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 13:08:00 UTC | #306008

phatbat's Avatar Comment 3 by phatbat

Hi Joe - It has only just appeared.

Welcome to the site.

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 13:17:00 UTC | #306016

theantitheist's Avatar Comment 2 by theantitheist

If this is found to be true it'll be a kick in the jaw for those who say lives special

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 13:17:00 UTC | #306015

Michael King's Avatar Comment 4 by Michael King

I do not understand why the presence of methane on Mars indicates the possibility of life given that there are large quantities of methane on the moon Titan and I am not aware that there has ever been any suggestion that there is or ever was life on Titan...

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 13:23:00 UTC | #306022

leeray666's Avatar Comment 6 by leeray666

Wow. I did see this on the news. It'll be great if it really is life.
Isn't mars outside of this 'Goldilocks zone'?

Hmmm... I wonder what the creationists make of this? Will they finally admit defeat?

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 13:28:00 UTC | #306032

Godfree Gordon's Avatar Comment 5 by Godfree Gordon

Michael, Titan is spewing it out via volcanic activity. None on mars hence the conclusion. Must be biology.

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 13:28:00 UTC | #306029

mdowe's Avatar Comment 7 by mdowe

NASA actually said it is likely due to either geological activity or life. Funny how the media immediately focuses on the more dramatic conclusion. Always greet the science you see in the mainstream media with a sceptical eye. This article is misleading in the extreme.

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 13:31:00 UTC | #306036

Scot Rafkin's Avatar Comment 8 by Scot Rafkin

Here's a slightly better version of the story from NASA.

And another not-too-bad recap here:

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 13:33:00 UTC | #306041

HourglassMemory's Avatar Comment 9 by HourglassMemory

Let us not get ahead of ourselves. It still isn't official.

But of course, when science suspects something, I think there are good reasons to start thinking of some way to actually nail the thing down.

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 13:33:00 UTC | #306042

Michael King's Avatar Comment 10 by Michael King

Michael, Titan is spewing it out via volcanic activity. None on mars hence the conclusion. Must be biology.

Thank you Gordon.

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 13:37:00 UTC | #306045

Scot Rafkin's Avatar Comment 11 by Scot Rafkin


It's officially peer reviewed and published:

Published Online January 15, 2009
Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1165243

Submitted on August 28, 2008
Accepted on January 6, 2009

Strong Release of Methane on Mars in Northern Summer 2003
Michael J. Mumma 1*, Geronimo L. Villaneuva 2, Robert E. Novak 3, Tilak Hewagama 4, Boncho P. Bonev 2, Michael A. DiSanti 5, Avi M. Mandell 5, Michael D. Smith 5

1 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Mailstop 690.3, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA.
2 Department of Physics, Catholic University of America, Washington, DC 20008, USA.; NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Mailstop 693, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA.
3 Department of Physics, Iona College, New Rochelle, NY 10801, USA.
4 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Mailstop 693, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA.; Department of Astronomy, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742-2421, USA.
5 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Mailstop 693, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Michael J. Mumma , E-mail:

Living systems produce more than 90% of Earth's atmospheric methane; the balance is of geochemical origin. On Mars, methane could be a signature of either origin. Using high-dispersion infrared spectrometers at three ground-based telescopes, we measured methane and water vapor simultaneously on Mars over several longitude intervals in (northern) early- and late-summer 2003 and near vernal equinox 2006. When present, methane occurred in extended plumes and the maxima of latitudinal profiles imply that the methane was released from discrete regions. At northern mid-summer, the principal plume contained ~19,000 metric tons of methane and the estimated source strength (≥0.6 kg s-1) was comparable to that of the massive hydrocarbon seep at Coal Oil Point (Santa Barbara, CA).

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 13:38:00 UTC | #306051

Beachbum's Avatar Comment 12 by Beachbum

Obviously, life is everywhere. Now we need to make proof just as prolific. I'm in the more life than not camp.

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 13:42:00 UTC | #306054

JuJu's Avatar Comment 14 by JuJu

Response to leeray666: I guess if life is found on mars it just means the "Goldilocks zone" is bigger than we thought. Mars would not be out of the zone. I hope the Zone keeps getting bigger.

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 13:43:00 UTC | #306057

Scot Rafkin's Avatar Comment 13 by Scot Rafkin

If anyone wants a copy of the paper, PM me with your email and I'll send you a PDF (unless I get overwhelmed with requests).

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 13:43:00 UTC | #306056

jo5ef's Avatar Comment 15 by jo5ef

Fantastic! If its true, the next big question is: is its DNA like ours, or indeed does it have DNA at all? Whatever the answer, the implications are profound. (My money is on, similar to ours)

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 13:44:00 UTC | #306058

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 16 by Stafford Gordon

I wonder what my childhood teacher Sir Patrick Moore feels and thinks about this; I imagine he's very excited; although he could be sceptical; a little of both perhaps, if that's possible.

For my part, if Mars farts it's alive.

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 13:46:00 UTC | #306059

HourglassMemory's Avatar Comment 17 by HourglassMemory

But how likely is it that it is indeed life on Mars? That's why I'm putting my feet on the breaks, if you know what I mean.
Has it actually been nailed?

I have no doubt that there are studies done on Earth and how they have explored actual life forms, on Earth, that produce methane. All the power to the people doing it.
It's Mars though that I'm interested in.

I confess that Godfree Gordon's reply has made me think.

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 13:48:00 UTC | #306064

Ned Flanders's Avatar Comment 18 by Ned Flanders

Jumping the gun a bit, aren't they?

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 13:51:00 UTC | #306069

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 19 by aquilacane

Those quotes sound good, but seem strung together to develop a conclusion out of context. Read each one on its own, then judge if it says life is the more probable. I don't know why no volcanoes rules them out. Does magma need to be exposed to produce methane? Can it seep?

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 13:54:00 UTC | #306074

Goldy's Avatar Comment 20 by Goldy

What are your views of this, Scot? I recall you're more in that line of interest...

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 13:57:00 UTC | #306075

m 1 g's Avatar Comment 21 by m 1 g

Too me it's just another "ad-nasaeaum" argument to grab our money

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 13:58:00 UTC | #306076

Scot Rafkin's Avatar Comment 22 by Scot Rafkin

The authors make no claim that the CH4 is biogenic. They simply say it's possible, along with other possible mechanisms, including serpentinization. The life stuff is simply blown out of proportion by the media.

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 13:58:00 UTC | #306079

m 1 g's Avatar Comment 23 by m 1 g

Comment #321202 by Scot Rafkin
"The life stuff is simply blown out of proportion by the media."

What else is new

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 14:04:00 UTC | #306086

Goldy's Avatar Comment 24 by Goldy

Comment #321202 by Scot Rafkin
Thought as much. But it would be useful to know where to land any manned craft, I guess. If you are going to need fuel, better be where it's at :-)

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 14:06:00 UTC | #306087

Scot Rafkin's Avatar Comment 25 by Scot Rafkin


The detection of methane on Mars is not new. In fact, in this paper, the two primary competing groups that reported detections have teamed up. This paper is interesting in that not only do they claim that they've detected methane, but that it was localized and in the form of a concentrated "plume".

Other than that, there is nothing new here. Nothing is resolved as to the origin of the methane.

My hunch is, and this is based on zero evidence, that the methane is abiotic. We'll have to wait for in situ isotopic measurements of methane (mostly like by the Mars Science Laboratory, whose launch has now been delayed until 2011 due to technical problems). If the isotope measurements come back with a fractionation pointing toward a biological source, then the case for life will be strong, but still not conclusive. Ultimately, we'll need to go find the microbes to confirm. At least we know where to start looking if we are so inclined.

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 14:07:00 UTC | #306088

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 26 by Quetzalcoatl

It's a little early to say it's life. But this is definitely promising. And if nothing else, the discovery of these methane emissions will encourage greater investment in Martian exploration, which can only be a good thing as far as I am concerned.

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 14:20:00 UTC | #306112

Beachbum's Avatar Comment 27 by Beachbum

The Goldilocks zone is a misconception, life has been found on this planet in many different "zones" from extremely hot, acidic, and pressurized to climates permanently well below zero. I do not think that life anywhere is a leap, any longer, but as Carl Sagan thought and the ramifications of this discovery demand; we will need extraordinary proof.

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 14:21:00 UTC | #306115

Vigilis's Avatar Comment 28 by Vigilis

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 14:27:00 UTC | #306123

Beachbum's Avatar Comment 29 by Beachbum

That is the best news. Now, maybe with the competition of space agencies and pressing and compelling info, we can now go to Mars.

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 14:29:00 UTC | #306126

Eshto's Avatar Comment 30 by Eshto

if Mars farts it's alive.


Thu, 15 Jan 2009 14:40:00 UTC | #306136