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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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Digging in the Noise

Digging in the Noise

(p.206) 13 Digging in the Noise
Life on Mars

David A. Weintraub

Princeton University Press

This chapter highlights the emergence of the Martian methane saga from its hibernation in 1988 when Vladimir Krasnopolsky and his colleagues undertook a study of the Martian atmosphere. It explains how the methane gas in the Earth's atmosphere absorbs light at nearly the same wavelengths as the methane in the Martian atmosphere, obscuring any possible signature of Martian methane in telescopic observations. It also recounts Krasnopolsky and his colleagues' construction of computer models that allowed them to subtract the effects of the huge amount of terrestrial methane from their spectral observations of Mars. The chapter looks at the decision of Krasnopolsky's team to neither confirm nor contradict the Mariner 9 upper limit, even after they made a definitive detection of methane on Mars. It emphasizes that the attempt to measure the level of methane in the atmosphere of Mars using a telescope in Arizona in 1988 yielded only noise.

Keywords:   Martian methane saga, Vladimir Krasnopolsky, Martian methane, Mariner 9, Martian atmosphere, methane gas

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