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Background levels of methane in Mars’ atmosphere show strong seasonal variations

Webster, Christopher R.; Mahaffy, Paul R.; Atreya, Sushil K.; Moores, John E.; Flesch, Gregory J.; Malespin, Charles; McKay, Christopher P.; Martinez, German; Smith, Christina L.; Martin-Torres, Javier; Gomez-Elvira, Javier; Zorzano, Maria-Paz; Wong, Michael H.; Trainer, Melissa G.; Steele, Andrew; Archer, Doug; Sutter, Brad; Coll, Patrice J.; Freissinet, Caroline; Meslin, Pierre-Yves; Gough, Raina V.; House, Christopher H.; Pavlov, Alexander; Eigenbrode, Jennifer L.; Glavin, Daniel P.; Pearson, John C.; Keymeulen, Didier; Christensen, Lance E.; Schwenzer, Susanne P.; Navarro-Gonzalez, Rafael; Pla-García, Jorge; Rafkin, Scot C. R.; Vicente-Retortillo, Álvaro; Kahanpää, Henrik; Viudez-Moreiras, Daniel; Smith, Michael D.; Harri, Ari-Matti; Genzer, Maria; Hassler, Donald M.; Lemmon, Mark; Crisp, Joy; Sander, Stanley P.; Zurek, Richard W. and Vasavada, Ashwin R. (2018). Background levels of methane in Mars’ atmosphere show strong seasonal variations. Science, 360(6393) pp. 1093–1096.

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Variable levels of methane in the martian atmosphere have eluded explanation partly because the measurements are not repeatable in time or location. We report in situ measurements at Gale crater made over a 5-year period by the Tunable Laser Spectrometer on the Curiosity rover. The background levels of methane have a mean value 0.41 ± 0.16 parts per billion by volume (ppbv) (95% confidence interval) and exhibit a strong, repeatable seasonal variation (0.24 to 0.65 ppbv). This variation is greater than that predicted from either ultraviolet degradation of impact-delivered organics on the surface or from the annual surface pressure cycle. The large seasonal variation in the background and occurrences of higher temporary spikes (~7 ppbv) are consistent with small localized sources of methane released from martian surface or subsurface reservoirs.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2018 The Authors
ISSN: 1095-9203
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
Support for Mars Science Laboratory OperationsST/P002110/1UKSA UK Space Agency
Keywords: Mars Science Laboratory; Methane; seasonal variations
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Item ID: 55406
Depositing User: Susanne Schwenzer
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2018 12:41
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2019 11:11
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