06.21.2017 A.I. laser targeting
06.01.2017 Diagram of Lake Stratification on Mars
03.21.2017 Break in Raised Tread on Curiosity Wheel
02.27.2017 Swirling Dust in Gale Crater, Mars, Sol 1613
02.27.2017 Dust Devil Passes Near Martian Sand Dune
02.27.2017 Sand Moving Under Curiosity, One Day to Next
12.13.2016 Now and Long Ago at Gale Crater, Mars
12.13.2016 Where's Boron? Mars Rover Detects It
10.03.2016 Curiosity Self-Portrait at 'Murray Buttes'
10.03.2016 Butte 'M9a' in 'Murray Buttes' on Mars
09.19.2016 Ribbon Cutting
09.09.2016 Farewell to Murray Buttes (Image 5)
09.09.2016 Farewell to Murray Buttes (Image 4)
09.09.2016 Farewell to Murray Buttes (Image 3)
09.09.2016 Farewell to Murray Buttes (Image 2)
09.09.2016 Farewell to Murray Buttes (Image 1)
08.26.2016 Out-of-this-World Records
03.30.2016 Erisa Hines
03.30.2016 Buzz Aldrin
02.12.2016 Women in Science
02.09.2016 Adam Steltzner, a JPL engineer
01.27.2016 Night Close-up of Martian Sand Grains
01.27.2016 Curiosity Self-Portrait at Martian Sand Dune
12.17.2015 Alteration Effects at Gale and Gusev Craters
12.17.2015 Full-Circle View Near 'Marias Pass' on Mars
Methane Background Levels at Gale Crater, MarsBy repeated measurements of the concentration of methane in the atmosphere at Gale Crater, NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has detected long-term variation in background levels below one part per billion, much lower than a previously reported spike in methane. Researchers measure the methane concentration using the tunable laser spectrometer in the rover's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite of instruments.
The one-time spike in methane, up to about 7 parts per billion, by volume, was measured over a period of several weeks during late 2013 and early 2014, in the first Martian southern-hemisphere autumn (northern-hemisphere spring) of Curiosity's investigations. This spike was not repeated during Curiosity's second Mars year. Researchers plan to continue making methane measurements to ascertain whether variations in the background level of methane follow a seasonal pattern. The background level has ranged from about 0.2 parts per billion to about 0.8 parts per billion, generally lower in southern-hemisphere autumn (northern-hemisphere spring) than other seasons.
Methane can be produced either by biological processes or by non-biological processes, such as interaction of water with some types of rocks. Seasonal variations in concentration would suggest seasonal variation either in how methane is being put into the atmosphere or how it is being removed from the atmosphere, or both. A graphic of possible ways for adding and removing methane is at http://mars.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/images/?ImageID=6891.
Development of SAM was coordinated by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland. For more information on the SAM experiment, visit http://ssed.gsfc.nasa.gov/sam/. The tunable laser spectrometer for SAM was developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. This technology is also being tested for use on Earth as utility-company safety equipment to check for leaks in pipelines carrying natural gas. See http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=6192 for more information.
JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, also built the rover and manages the mission. For more information about Curiosity, visit http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.nasa.gov/msl.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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