Methane Hints at Life on Mars

Gas released in high concentrations could be from bacteria
By Drew Nelles,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 15, 2009 4:38 PM CST
This visualization provided by NASA shows a methane plume found in Mars's atmosphere during the northern summer season.    (NASA)
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(Newser) – The discovery of high methane concentrations on Mars may hint that underground life exists on the red planet, the Houston Chronicle reports. Scientists funded by NASA and other institutions, using Earth-based telescopes, have found plumes of methane in such high concentrations they believe bacteria, which can also produce the gas on Earth, may be the source.

“If methane were absent, you would be able to argue more forcefully there isn’t life on Mars,” one astronomer says. Although geological processes can also produce methane, a scientist who claimed to discover bacterial evidence on a Martian meteorite in the 1990s is optimistic about the findings. “It doesn’t prove it,” he says. “But, to me, that is very strong support for the microbial life theory.”