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Methane in Mars meteorites hints at life on Mars

Researchers have discovered traces of methane in Martian meteorites which indicate the presence of a warm, wet and chemically reactive environment on the red planet that can support life.

The researchers studied samples from six meteorites of volcanic rock that were created on Mars.

All six samples contained methane, which was calculated by crushing the rocks and passing the evolving gas through a mass spectrometer.

The team also studied two non-Martian meteorites, which had lesser amounts of methane.

Co-author Sean McMahon, a Yale University postdoctoral associate in the Department of Geology and Geophysics said, "Other researchers will be keen to replicate these findings using alternative measurement tools and techniques."

"Our findings will likely be used by astrobiologists in models and experiments aimed at understanding whether life could survive below the surface of Mars today," McMahon added.

According to University of Aberdeen professor John Parnell, who directed the research, "One of the most exciting developments in the exploration of Mars has been the suggestion of methane in the Martian atmosphere."

McMahon said that the team's method may be helpful for the Mars rover experiments.

"Even if Martian methane does not directly feed microbes, it may signal the presence of a warm, wet, chemically reactive environment where life could thrive," said McMahon.