Ever since the existence of methane on Mars was detected for the first time in about 15 years, the process triggering the production and consumption of the element have been argued intensely. Now, an interdisciplinary scientific team from Aarhus University from Denmark has suggested n earlier ignored the physical-chemical process that can justify methane’s decrease.
Over the years, the reports regarding the methane on Mars’ atmosphere explained how the element was appearing and disappearing with no explanation. The variation led to suspicions about the precision of the first methane measurements.
Recent measurements of methane in the Red Planet’s atmosphere have depicted that its dynamics is sufficiently real and the fact that sometimes only incredibly low concentrations can be detected is because of an unresolved mechanism that results in the element disappearing from the atmosphere, and not a wrong measurement.
The methane origins or the causes for its consumption have not been detected yet. More precisely, the latter, the rapid vanishing of methane, lacks a reasonable mechanistic explanation.
Mars’ Methane Mystery Might Have A Clear, Scientific Explanation
The most evident mechanism, the photochemical degradation of methane resulted from UV radiation, cannot reason the element’s rapid vanishing, which is imperative for explaining the dynamics.
Aarhus researchers have issued an article in the journal Icarus in which they suggest a new mechanism that can reason the consumption of methane on Mars. Based on Mars-similar minerals, for instance, basalt and plagioclase, the scientists have detailed that these elements can be oxidized and gases are ionized during the corrosion process.
Therefore, the ionized methane interacts with the mineral surfaces and sticks to them. The team has detailed that the carbon atom, such as methyl group from methane, promptly sticks to the silicon atom in plagioclase, which is also the main component of Mars’ surface material.
By this mechanism, which is much more efficient than photochemical processes, methane could be eliminated from the atmosphere within the observed time and then absorbed by the Red Planet’s source soil.
The research team has moreover shown than these mineral surfaces can conduct to the formation of reactive chemicals, for instance, hydrogen peroxide and oxygen radicals, which are incredibly toxic to living organisms, including bacteria. The discoveries have an impact on our understanding of the protection of organic material on Mars and therefore, the main issue of life on Mars.