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Scientists find likely source of methane on Mars

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The mystery of methane on Mars may finally be solved as scientists Monday confirmed the presence of the life-indicating gas on the Red Planet as well as where it might have come from.

In the 15 years since a European probe reported traces of the gas in the Martian atmosphere, debate has raged over the accuracy of the readings showing methane, which on Earth is produced by simple lifeforms.

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Because methane gas dissipates relatively quickly — within around 12 years on Earth — and due to the difficulty of observing Mars’ atmosphere, many scientists questioned previous studies that relied on a single data set.

Now an international team of experts have compared observations from two separate spacecraft, taken just one day apart in 2013, to find independent proof of methane on our neighbouring planet.

Furthermore, they conducted two parallel experiments to determine the most likely source of methane on Mars to be an ice sheet east of Gale Crater — itself long assumed to be a dried up lake.

“This is very exciting and largely unexpected,” Marco Giuranna, from Rome’s National Astrophysics Institute, told AFP.

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“Two completely independent lines of investigation pointed to the same general area of the most likely source for the methane.”

Europe’s Mars Express probe measured 15.5 parts per billion in the atmosphere above the Gale Crater on June 16, 2013. The presence of methane in the vicinity was confirmed by readings taken 24 hours earlier by NASA’s Curiosity rover.

Using the data, Giuranna and the team divided the region around the crater into grids of 250 by 250 square kilometres.

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One study then ran a million computer-modelled emissions scenarios for each section while another team studied images of the planet surface for features associated on Earth with the release of methane.

– ‘Indicator of life’ –

The most likely source was a sheet of frozen methane beneath a rock formation, which the team believes periodically ejects the gas into the atmosphere.

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Giuranna said that while methane is a sign of life on Earth, its presence on Mars doesn’t necessarily constitute evidence of something similar on the Red Planet.

“Methane is important because it could be an indicator of microbial life,” he said. “But life is not required to explain these detections because methane can be produced by abiotic processes.”

“Though not a direct biosignature of life, methane can add to the habitability of martian settings, as certain types of microbes can use methane as a source of carbon and energy,” he added.

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Though there is no liquid water on Mars, the European Space Agency said in February its imaging equipment had shown further evidence of dried up river beds, suggesting the Red Planet may once have been home to simple organisms.

Giuranna said that further research was needed to determine the extent of the methane ice sheet near Gale Crater.

If founded to be extensive, the methane it contains “could support a sustained human presence” on Mars as a possible source of fuel for industrial processes and a propellant for returning manned missions to Earth, he said.

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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Donald Trump’s tax cut was even worse than we thought

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From the moment it was proposed, the Republicans’ 2017 tax cut law was criticized for benefiting corporations and wealthy Americans. doing comparatively little for low-income Americans, and needlessly blowing a hole in the federal deficit.

About a year and a half since its passage, the criticisms are looking apt. And none of the supposed benefits promised by Republicans — moderate and extremist alike — have materialized. No boom in business investment, no supercharged wages, and no phenomenal jobs growth.

In fact, as new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act appears to have done even less on the “jobs” side of the equation than we previously thought.

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Trump said he wouldn’t cut Medicare — now he says it could be a fun ‘second term project’

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It's unclear if President Donald Trump is trying to lose the 2020 election or he's simply spitballing with right-wing conservatives, but his latest idea is to gut Medicare in his second term according to the New York Times.

During the 2016 campaign there were at least six occasions in which Trump promised he would protect Medicare.

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‘It’s always dread with President Trump’: CNN analyst says G7 leaders are revolted they have to meet with Trump again

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On Thursday's edition of CNN's "The Situation Room," reporter Abby Phillip said that world leaders are feeling "dread" about the prospect of meeting with President Donald Trump after his latest round of erratic behavior on the world stage.

"There is a big test on foreign relations for President Trump this weekend," said host Brianna Keilar. "He's going to the G7. He, Abby, is headed there after insulting Denmark by pulling out of a state visit, keeping in mind that Denmark is a key intel and military ally of the U.S. What is the mood going into this forum?"

"Honestly, it's always dread with President Trump," said Phillip.

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