Curiosity rover raises questions about methane on Mars

Graph showing abundances of gases in the Martian atmosphere at Gale crater.
Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SAM / GSFC

In a much-anticipated news briefing today, scientists with the Curiosity rover mission provided an update on studies done so far about the Martian atmosphere. The biggest question on many people’s mind was, “has Curiosity detected methane yet?” On Earth, about 95% of the methane in the atmosphere is produced by microbes and most of the rest by active geology.

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Curiosity finds similarities between soil of Mars and soil of Hawaii

The first X-ray view of Martian soil, taken by the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument on Curiosity. The mineralogy is similar to volcanic soil in Hawaii. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Ames

When one thinks about Mars, probably the last thing that comes to mind is a tropical paradise. Mars is just the opposite – cold, dry and barren. But as the saying goes, “the devil is in the details.” It turns out that in some ways, Mars actually does have some things in common with the warm, sandy climes of Earth, according to new results released yesterday in a Curiosity rover press briefing.

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Surprise – the man who ‘jumped from space’ doesn’t like space exploration

Felix Baumgartner during an interview with the media. Credit: Ross Franklin / AP

When Felix Baumgartner made his historic jump from the “edge of space” at about 39 kilometres (24 miles) above the Earth a couple of weeks ago, he was branded a hero. Perhaps deservedly so, becoming the first person to break the speed of sound outside of an airplane or spacecraft, and skydiving from the highest altitude yet achieved. While some people have called his jump little more than a publicity stunt, it did help to invoke a sense of wonder at what we are capable of.

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‘Back from the dead’: new analysis says exoplanet Fomalhaut b is real

Artist’s conception of Fomalhaut B. Credit: ESA / Hubble / M. Kornmesser / ESO / L. Calçada / L. L. Christensen

Among the many exoplanets now being discovered, Fomalhaut B was considered something special – the first exoplanet to be directly photographed in visible light, by the Hubble Space Telescope, back in 2008. That is, until more recent studies suggested that it might not be real, not even a planet after all.

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