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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.

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.

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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.

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


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Disney heiress who went undercover to Disneyland ‘livid’ at conditions and pay

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Heiress Abigail Disney went to one of her family's resorts to see conditions for workers herself and was disgusted by what she saw.

In comments to Yahoo News podcast "Through Her Eyes," Disney described how she went to Disneyland in California undercover and found that workers at the resort were treated poorly—and underpaid.

"Every single one of these people I talked to were saying, 'I don't know how I can maintain this face of joy and warmth when I have to go home and forage for food in other people's garbage,'" said Disney.

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Ex-Peru president wanted for corruption arrested in the US

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Former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo was arrested in the United States Tuesday to face extradition to his home country on corruption charges, authorities in the South American nation said.

The 73-year-old is suspected of involvement in the sprawling Odebrecht scandal in which the construction giant paid hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes throughout the continent to secure huge public works contracts.

The Peruvian attorney general's office announced on Twitter that Toledo "was arrested this morning for extradition, in the United States."

Toledo has been formally charged with receiving a $20 million payment from Odebrecht to grant it the tender to build the Interoceanic Highway that links Peru with Brazil.

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Comic-Con mines past for future hits on 50th edition

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A smorgasbord of sequels, prequels and reunions from "Terminator" to "Game of Thrones" awaits thousands of misty-eyed comic book geeks and sci-fi nerds descending on San Diego this week for the world's largest celebration of pop culture fandom.

The 50th edition of Comic-Con International will see 135,000 cosplayers, bloggers, movie executives and humble fans pile into a sweaty convention center for glimpses of their heroes, in town to promote the next mega-hit films, TV shows and comic books.

This anniversary edition promises to be more nostalgia-laden than most -- among those expected to appear are Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton, who will soon reunite on screen for the first time since 1991's "Terminator 2" for Paramount's killer cyborg sequel "Dark Fate."

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