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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.

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

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.

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

“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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Activism

‘America is running away like rats’: Watch angry Kurds blame US troops for dead babies as they withdraw

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The Associated Press obtained video of Kurds pelting American military vehicles with fruit as they withdrew from Syria.

The video was first captured by a Kurdish news agency, the AP said in a report on Monday.

“Like rats, America is running away,” one man shouted in Arabic. Another shouted obscenities and talked of babies in Kurdish-held Syria who had died in the Turkish offensive.

The scene encapsulated the Kurds’ feelings of betrayal and added a new indignity to a US withdrawal that has been rushed and involved several close brushes with Turkish-backed forces.

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2020 Election

Julián Castro says his campaign is ‘in dire need’ of funds – and he’s out if he can’t raise $800K in ten days

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Julián Castro says he will have to pull out of the Democratic presidential primary if he does not raise $800,000 in the next ten days. Castro, a former HUD Secretary, says he will be forced to stop campaigning if he does not reach his financial goals by the end of the month.

“The truth is, for our campaign, these debates have offered our only guaranteed opportunity to share my vision with the American people,” Castro said in an email to supporters, as Buzzfeed reports.

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Legal scholar exposes the strange ‘missing link’ in Rudy Giuliani’s debunked Ukraine conspiracy theory

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Ryan Goodman, a professor at New York University School of Law, has written a new article with NYU colleague Alex Potcovaru exposing the direct link between President Donald Trump's request to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory pinning the blame on Ukraine for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

Writing at Just Security, Goodman and Potcovaru examine past statements made by Giuliani both on cable news shows and on social media, and have discovered that Giuliani's efforts to get Ukraine to probe the 2016 election are also an effort to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.

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