Because it landed in Gale Crater in 2012, the Curiosity rover has been finding out the Martian floor beneath its wheels to be taught extra concerning the planet’s historical past. However, Curiosity additionally caught its nostrils within the air for a giant sniff to grasp the Martian ambiance.
Thus far, this sniffing has resulted in some findings that scientists are nonetheless attempting to know. Earlier this year, the rover’s tunable laser spectrometer, known as SAM, which stands for Pattern Evaluation at Mars, detected the most important quantity of methane ever measured throughout its mission.
SAM has additionally discovered that over time, oxygen behaves in a method that can’t be defined by any chemical course of scientists at present perceive. SAM has had loads of time — about six years — to smell and analyze the atmospheric composition on Mars. The info revealed that on the floor, 95% of the environment is carbon dioxide, adopted by 2.6% molecular nitrogen, 1.9% argon, 0.16% oxygen, and 0.06% carbon monoxide.
Like Earth, Mars goes by way of its seasons; over the course of a year, the air strain adjustments. This occurs when the carbon dioxide fuel freezes in winter on the poles, inflicting the air strain to decrease. It rises once more within the spring and summer season, redistributing throughout Mars because the carbon dioxide evaporates.
Surprisingly, the oxygen truly rose by a peak improve 30% within the spring and summertime earlier than dropping again to regular within the fall. Given the period of time Curiosity has been monitoring the ambiance, it was capable of detecting that this sample repeated, albeit with various quantities of oxygen.
The variation means that the oxygen is being created by one thing, then taken away. The June studying indicated 21 components per billion models by quantity or ppbv. Meaning of the quantity of air on Mars being assessed, one billionth of the quantity of air is methane.
This isn’t the primary time methane has been detected on Mars by Curiosity. Over the course of its mission since touchdown in August 2012, Curiosity has detected methane many occasions, and research has been written about how the gasoline ranges really seem to rise and fall relying on the season. It may spike as a lot as 60% throughout the summer.