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NASA’s Curiosity rover finds new methane spike on Mars

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NASA’s Curiosity Rover has detected the highest ever levels of methane in the course of its mission on Mars, an exciting discovery because the gas could point to the existence of microbial life.

But the methane could also be produced as a result of interactions between rocks and water.

Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) tunable laser spectrometer detected the reading — 21 parts per billion units by volume (ppbv) — sometime last week, NASA said Sunday.

“With our current measurements, we have no way of telling if the methane source is biology or geology, or even ancient or modern,” said Paul Mahaffy of NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

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The Curiosity team has caught whiffs of methane many times over since Curiosity touched down on the Martian surface in 2012.

One leading theory is that the methane is being released from underground reservoirs created by ancient life forms.

Though Mars has no active volcanoes like on Earth, it is possible that methane is being released from geological processes, involving reactions of carbon from carbonate rocks or carbon dioxide, with hydrogen from liquid water.

At the right temperatures these reactions produce methane.

Past papers have documented how background levels of the colorless, odorless gas seem to rise and fall seasonally.

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The team have also noted sudden spikes in methane, but cannot say how long these temporary plumes last or why they differ from the seasonal patterns.

Researchers organized a new experiment over the weekend to gather more information about the latest spike, a suspected transient plume, in order to add context to the measurement.

“Curiosity’s scientists need time to analyze these clues and conduct many more methane observations,” the team said.

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“They also need time to collaborate with other science teams, including those with the European Space Agency’s Trace Gas Orbiter, which has been in its science orbit for a little over a year without detecting any methane.”

Combining readings from the surface and from orbit could help them pinpoint the source of the gas and understand how it interacts with the planet’s atmosphere, which is about a hundred times thinner than Earth’s and 95 percent carbon dioxide.

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“That might explain why the Trace Gas Orbiter’s and Curiosity’s methane observations have been so different.”


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MLK was ‘gravely disappointed’ with white moderates — whom he believed were responsible for impeding civil rights

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"We also realize that the problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power."

—Martin Luther King Jr., 1967

This Martin Luther King Jr. Day comes as moderate Democrats, falling in line behind former vice president Joe Biden, are warning that the party risks re-electing Donald Trump if it nominates too radical a candidate for president — by which they mean someone like Senators Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.

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Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe catches Alan Dershowitz in humiliating hypocrisy

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Harvard Constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe called out President Donald Trump's lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, Sunday on Twitter, noting that his opinions seem to evolve depending on who he's defending.

Dershowitz is on a kind of press junket for the president, defending him in various media appearances. The former lawyer to Jeffrey Epstein is handling Trump's defense as it pertains to the abuse of power. Dershowitz thinks that charge has no basis in law. In fact, impeachment trials aren't actually legal proceedings, they're political proceedings, because the Justice Department claimed that Trump can't be indicted under the law while he's president.

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Watergate’s John Dean thinks Trump wrote part of his legal team’s brief — because it’s so terrible

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Former White House counsel for Richard Nixon, John Dean, explained that the legal brief out of President Donald Trump's White House was so bad that it had to have been dictated by Trump himself.

Saturday evening, Trump's legal team, chaired by Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, filed their own form of a legal brief that responded to the case filed by Democrats ahead of Tuesday's impeachment trial.

The document called the proceedings “constitutionally invalid” and claims House Democrats are staging a “dangerous attack” with a “brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election.”

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