Mars Methane Mystery Still Beckons
And the mystery of how methane on Mars is being replenished has scientists continuing their observations in an effort to understand what's happening on Mars. Michael Mumma of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland was one of the original methane discoverers. Observations he and his team have made over the last four years show methane is not spread evenly around Mars, but concentrated in a few "hotspots."
Can Cassini be Used to Detect Life on Enceladus?
McKay's paper suggests that the non-methane hydrocarbon to methane ratio needs to be lower than 0.001 for the methane to favour a biological origin.
This method was recently used on hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean. A higher ratio of non-methane hydrocarbons were measured, indicating the gases emitted from the vents were non-biological in origin. This research suggests that Cassini's Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) can be used in a similar way to see if the organic compounds detected in the Enceladus plume can be attributed to biological processes.