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More Astronomy News! Actually, more astrobiology news. My former students may remember my speaking about the possible detection of Methane in the atmosphere of Mars. Methane can not survive very long in the Martian environment- UV light from the Sun breaks it down rapidly, so if there is Methane present, something must be making it, and getting it into the atmosphere. Sadly, the detection of the Methane was sporadic, and perhaps was the result of instrumental error. No longer. The Curiosity Rover has confirmed the presence of Methane and, even more, organic molecules in the Martian surface rocks. I think that its spectrometer is sensitive enough to distinguish individual isotopes, and this is very important. If there is an increased percentage of C12 over C13 as compared to the CO2 isotope ratios in the Martian atmosphere, that would be strong evidence for the presence of anaerobic microorganisms on Mars. Read more about it here:

The first definitive detection of Martian organic chemicals in material on the surface of Mars came from analysis by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover of sample powder from this mudstone target, “Cumberland.” Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS