News & AnalysisPlanetary Science

Question of Martian Methane Is Still Up in the Air

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Science  09 Nov 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6108, pp. 733
DOI: 10.1126/science.338.6108.733

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If the Curiosity rover finds even a part per billion (ppb) of methane in martian air, it could mean there is life on Mars today. So NASA's announcement last week that a press teleconference would "provide an update on Curiosity's studies of the Martian atmosphere" definitely piqued the media's interest. But after two good, long analyses, Curiosity scientists could only say that, with 95% confidence, there is between 0 and 5 ppb of martian methane. So there could be a hefty amount of methane and life on Mars, or there could be none of either.