Quantifying low temperature production of methane on Mars

Schwenzer, Susanne (2011). Quantifying low temperature production of methane on Mars. In: 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, 7-11 Mar 2011, Houston, TX, USA.

URL: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2011/?view=ab...

Abstract

Methane was first detected in the Matian atmosphere in 2003, and its implications have been widely debated. Methane can be generated in terrestrial biological systems, and so is a potential indicator for past or present life. However, methane can be produced anorganically (without intervention of life) in several sorts of terrestrial environments, some of which are relevant for Mars. On Earth, anorganic methane can be produced by redox reactions associated with high and low-temperature alteration of Fe-bearing rocks, so long as carbon is present. Methane production is common in mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal systems, and wherever serpentine is forming. In fact, the anorganic production of methane on Earth is estimated to be 50–70 Mt y-1. Methane-producing reactions, including serpentinitization, can also provide significant energy that can be utilized by living organisms. Thermochemical modeling of rock-water chemical reactions shows that, in addition to methane, molecular hydrogen and other reduced gas species can be produced. The alteration phases formed by those processes include hydrous silicates. Here, I quantify methane production and alteration minerals from three Martian rock compositions and pure olivine and compare them to the amounts released and observed in 2003.

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