The mystery around methane ‘spikes’ on Mars that have fuelled speculation about being caused by alien life has deepened.
Previously, scientists thought that the spikes of the gas (which can be released by both biological and geological sources) might have come from wind erosion of rocks on Mars.
But that’s not the case, according to new research published in Scientific Reports and published by researchers from Newcastle University.
Principal investigator Dr Jon Telling said: ‘The questions are - where is this methane coming from, and is the source biological?
‘That's a massive question and to get to the answer we need to rule out lots of other factors first.’
Analysing data from the Red Planet, Dr Telling and his team concluded that the source of the methane is not wind erosion.
Dr Telling said important about this is that it strengthens the argument that the methane must be coming from a different source.
‘Whether or not that's biological, we still don't know.’
Methane is destroyed by solar radiation within several hundred years when it enters the atmosphere, so it must have been released quite recently.
Despite this, there remains the possibility that the gas could have been trapped underground for millions or billions of years, and only just been released.