When you think of signs of life, what comes to mind? Water? Oxygen? Maybe…flatulence? It may sound unbelievable, but researchers just found methane gas on our galactic neighbor, Mars! Both my intellectual, 38-year-old self and my inner eight-year-old self are delighted. For completely different reasons, of course. I mean, there’s methane on mars – these jokes write themselves!
Before someone jumps in, yes, I am well aware that methane gas is produced in plenty of ways that don’t make people giggle. Just let us immature folks have this one.
We paid people to do this
Let’s talk about what the discovery is, exactly. NASA’s “Little Rover That Could”, Curiosity, reported “unusually high” levels of methane on Mars. Methane is a possible indicator of life, because it is often produced by microbes and other organisms. Scientists caution that these findings are still very new, and that there could be other explanations. Also, these organisms may not be anything that laypeople would find terribly interesting, but that wouldn’t make the discovery any less significant.
Curiosity has found methane on Mars before, but never at the levels its reporting now. The most recent measurements are three times higher than previous samples. I feel the need to point out that there are people working at NASA with extremely-high levels of education. The kind of people who graduated top of their class, who are probably highly ambitious and dedicated to scientific advancement. They deserve our respect and admiration. And we paid these people to measure farts on an alien planet.
It gets better
One of the reasons for the increased levels of methane? It could be due to the rover itself. It has a tiny bit of methane on-board. This may provide definitive proof of the long held theory known commonly as “he who smelt it, dealt it.” However, scientists, also known as joke-ruiners, say that the levels of measured methane are too high to be coming only from Curiosity. The large spike of methane, first detected around a week ago, has since dissipated, but the mystery of where it came from remains. Kind of like when you smell gas at a party and can’t figure out who the culprit is.
Like a toot in a space suit
All joking aside, the discovery is fascinating and could change what we know about the “Red Planet.” We owe these researchers our thanks for their tireless work as they try to discover more about our solar system. We’ll see what other revelations are made the next time a NASA rocket…blasts off.