PIA16461: Potential Sources and Sinks of Methane on Mars
Mission: Mars Science Laboratory (MSL)
Spacecraft: Curiosity
Instrument: SAM
Product Size: 840 x 524 pixels (width x height)
Produced By: Goddard Space Flight Center
Other Information: JPL News Release 2012-348
Full-Res TIFF: PIA16461.tif (1.321 MB)
Full-Res JPEG: PIA16461.jpg (60.6 kB)

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Original Caption Released with Image:

If the atmosphere of Mars contains methane, various possibilities have been proposed for where the methane could come from and how it could disappear.

Potential non-biological sources for methane on Mars include comets, degradation of interplanetary dust particles by ultraviolet light, and interaction between water and rock. A potential biological source would be microbes, if microbes have ever lived on Mars. Potential sinks for removing methane from the atmosphere are photochemistry in the atmosphere and loss of methane to the surface.

Researchers are using Curiosity's 10 instruments to investigate whether areas in Gale Crater ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, and built Curiosity. The SAM instrument was developed at Goddard with instrument contributions from Goddard, JPL and the University of Paris in France.

For more information about Curiosity and its mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl.

Image Credit:
NASA/JPL-Caltech, SAM/GSFC

Image Addition Date:
2012-11-02