Anything other than methane which is the simplest organic molecule there is (CH4) and, as far as I remember, has been detected in interstellar gas..?

Detecting methane per se isn't what's interesting about this. You don't need life to produce methane; there's plenty of it in the outer solar system, Titan for example is covered in the stuff, and it's been detected on Mars before. But it's a small enough molecule that Mars daylight temperatures can give it enough velocity to escape from the planet's gravity well, which means that if you detect nontrivial quantities in Mars' atmosphere it's probably being actively replenished somehow. Fluctuating levels of methane, which is what's actually new about the... (read more)

Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014

by Gondolinian 1 min read15th Dec 2014309 comments


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