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Life on MarsWhat to Know Before We Go$
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David A. Weintraub

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691209258

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691209258.001.0001

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Methane and Mars

Methane and Mars

Chapter:
(p.186) 12 Methane and Mars
Source:
Life on Mars
Author(s):

David A. Weintraub

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691209258.003.0012

This chapter talks about the astronomers who have been searching for evidence of methane in the atmosphere of Mars for half a century and trying to address the question of why it is there. It clarifies that methane is a simple molecule that packs a very powerful astrobiological punch and is impossible to exist in the oxygen-rich, hydrogen-poor Martian environment without it being actively created by living things. It also points out how the discovery of methane in the atmosphere of Mars could be unequivocal proof that life exists or existed on Mars. The chapter explains that methane is a colorless, odorless gas that is the simplest possible molecule composed of both and only hydrogen and carbon atoms. It emphasizes that methane in the Martian atmosphere simply cannot survive for long and it could have been converted to carbon dioxide and water.

Keywords:   methane, Martian atmosphere, Martian environment, hydrogen, carbon atoms, carbon dioxide

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