When the reports emerged that methane was detected on Mars, there was a big stir amongst the scientists. But there was some issue with the Curiosity rover’s sensors and something may be misinterpreted. But recently, another independent source also detected the possibility of methane on the Red Planet. The presence of this life indicating gas on Mars was already being detected since the last 15 years by different sources. A day before methane was detected by Curiosity rover, in June 2013, Mars Express mission of European Space Agency also caught a whiff of the same region- Gale Crater on the Mars. Previously, many other instruments have detected methane there, but this is the first time when two different pieces of equipment detected the methane gas in the same area and time.
Till today, independent sources had not confirmed about the presence of methane on Mars. It is the first independent confirmation. Scientists believe that it is really a big deal. On earth, 90-95 % of methane is either produced by living or dead organisms. Methane can be abiotically produced by different geological processes. On other planets like Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus, that are ice and gas giants, chemical processes result in the production of plenty of methane. There is methane ice on Pluto. There is liquid methane on lakes of the moon of Saturn. Thus, methane is not rare in the universe. On Mars as well, methane appears in bursts. But studying about the origin of Martin methane will give exciting information about Mars.
In 2004, Mars Express orbiter had already detected methane with use of the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS) instrument. The same instrument was used in the detection of 2013 along with new analysis techniques which gained higher confidence in the results. The research for methane is going on in full swing currently. The PFS instrument is constantly monitoring the Martian atmosphere and newer techniques of the research team will be used to get better results.