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NASA Curiosity rover detects high levels of methane on Mars

NASA Curiosity rover detects high levels of methane on Mars

Curiosity, NASA's Mars rover, has detected an unusually high level of methane during a routine experiment which tests the concentration of molecules in the atmosphere on Planet Mars.

The data showed a methane level of 21 parts per billion, around three times higher than had ever been seen before. Curiosity is not outfitted with the appropriate instruments to tell us whether the plume is biological or geological in origin.

After detecting the highest levels of methane yet seen on Mars, NASA put a pause on the rover's other science activities to follow up on the discovery. Many suggested the high methane could hint at the possibility of life on Mars. Methane is an important molecule on Earth and many living organisms excrete it, including microbes.

Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System after Mercury. It is often referred to as the "Red Planet".

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