Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Water And Methane Maps Overlap On Mars: A New Clue?

Date:
September 22, 2004
Source:
European Space Agency
Summary:
Recent analyses of ESA’s Mars Express data reveal that concentrations of water vapour and methane in the atmosphere of Mars significantly overlap. This result, from data obtained by the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS), gives a boost to understanding of geological and atmospheric processes on Mars, and provides important new hints to evaluate the hypothesis of present life on the Red Planet.

This map shows the concentration of water vapour close to the soil around the equatorial region of Mars. The areas of least concentration are in purple, the highest in green.
Credit: s: ESA/ASI/PFS team

Recent analyses of ESA’s Mars Express data reveal that concentrations of water vapour and methane in the atmosphere of Mars significantly overlap. This result, from data obtained by the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS), gives a boost to understanding of geological and atmospheric processes on Mars, and provides important new hints to evaluate the hypothesis of present life on the Red Planet.

PFS observed that, at 10-15 kilometres above the surface, water vapour is well mixed and uniform in the atmosphere. However, it found that, close to the surface, water vapour is more concentrated in three broad equatorial regions: Arabia Terra, Elysium Planum and Arcadia-Memnonia. Here, the concentration is two to three times higher than in other regions observed. These areas of water vapour concentration also correspond to the areas where NASA’s Odyssey spacecraft has observed a water ice layer a few tens of centimetres below the surface, as Dr Vittorio Formisano, PFS principal investigator, reports.

New in-depth analysis of PFS data also confirms that methane is not uniform in the atmosphere, but concentrated in some areas. The PFS team observed that the areas of highest concentration of methane overlap with the areas where water vapour and underground water ice are also concentrated. This spatial correlation between water vapour and methane seems to point to a common underground source.

Initial speculation has taken the underground ice layer into account. This could be explained by the ‘ice table’ concept, in which geothermal heat from below the surface makes water and other material move towards the surface. It would then freeze before getting there, due to the very low surface temperature (many tens of degrees Celsius below zero). Further investigations are needed to fully understand the correlation between the ice table and the presence and distribution of water vapour and methane in the atmosphere.

In other words, can the geothermal processes which ‘feed’ the ice table also bring water vapour and other gases, like methane, to the surface? Can there be liquid water below the ice table? Can forms of bacterial life exist in the water below the ice table, producing methane and other gases and releasing them to the surface and then to the atmosphere?

The PFS instrument has also detected traces of other gases in the Martian atmosphere. A report on these is currently under peer review. Further studies will address whether these gases can be linked to water and methane and help answer the unresolved questions. In-situ observations by future lander missions to Mars may provide a more exhaustive solution to the puzzle.

###

The result is reported today, 20 September, by Dr Vittorio Formisano at the International Mars Conference (19-23 September), organised by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) in Ischia, Italy.

The objective of the PFS instrument is the study, with unprecedented spectral resolution, of temperature fields in the atmosphere, dust, variation and cycle of water and carbon monoxide, vertical distribution of water, soil-atmosphere interactions and minor gaseous species. From this, hints of extant life can be extracted (in terms of the presence of ‘biomarker’ gases and chemical study of atmospheric environmental conditions).

The PFS is an Italian Space Agency instrument, developed by the Istituto di Fisica dello Spazio Interplanetario (IFSI) of the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF), in the framework of ESA's Mars Express mission.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Space Agency. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Space Agency. "Water And Methane Maps Overlap On Mars: A New Clue?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 September 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/09/040921082421.htm>.
European Space Agency. (2004, September 22). Water And Methane Maps Overlap On Mars: A New Clue?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/09/040921082421.htm
European Space Agency. "Water And Methane Maps Overlap On Mars: A New Clue?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/09/040921082421.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Baby Moon 'Peggy' Spotted In Saturn's Rings

New Baby Moon 'Peggy' Spotted In Saturn's Rings

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A bump in the rings could be a half-mile-wide miniature moon. It was found by accident in Cassini probe images. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Americas Glimpse Total Lunar Eclipse

Americas Glimpse Total Lunar Eclipse

AFP (Apr. 15, 2014) A total lunar eclipse, the first since December 2011, took place early Tuesday morning with the Americas getting the best glimpse. Duration: 1:19 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse

NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse

AP (Apr. 15, 2014) Star gazers in parts of North and South America got a rare treat early Tuesday morning - a total eclipse of the moon. (April 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spacecrafts Could Use Urine As Fuel Source

Spacecrafts Could Use Urine As Fuel Source

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) New research says the urea from urine could be recycled for fuel. Urea is filtered out of wastewater when making drinking water. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins