Mars Curiosity rover detects mysterious methane spikes in planet - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Mars Curiosity rover detects mysterious methane spikes in planet's atmosphere

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NASA's Curiosity rover found mysterious spikes of methane gas in the red planet's atmosphere. Photo: NBC/NASA NASA's Curiosity rover found mysterious spikes of methane gas in the red planet's atmosphere. Photo: NBC/NASA
KHQ.com -

NASA's Curiosity rover found methane in the martian atmosphere and organic chemicals in the planet's soil. Scientists said Tuesday these are the latest tantalizing findings of the rover as it hunts for clues about the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

Curiosity discovered periodic bursts of methane, a gas that, on Earth, is strongly tied to life, in the atmosphere around its landing site in the Gale crater.

In a press release Tuesday, NASA's jet propulsion laboratory in California said the rover measured a "tenfold spike" in methane in the atmosphere around it.

Curiosity also detected organic molecules in a sample collected by a robotic drill. Organic molecules, which contain carbon and usually hydrogen are the chemical building blocks of life, although they can exist without the presence of life. 

NASA scientists said in the press release that the findings shed light on a "chemically active modern Mars" and on "favorable conditions" for life on ancient Mars.

The latest findings combine more than two years of data collected by the rover since its landing inside the Gale crater in 2012.

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