Researchers believe influxes of methane might have altered Mars’ atmosphere to a greater extent than previously thought. The study comes as a response to several other findings of the past that argued temperatures were too low on Mars to allow liquid water to flow or gather on the red giant’s surface. However, some compelling evidence points to methane buildup standing at the core for intermediate warming seasons 3 to 4 billion years ago which allowed liquid water to form basins and flow in rivers.
Harvard’s team of researchers believe such bursts of methane together with other gasses could have given birth to a greenhouse effect which subsequently warmed up Mars and maybe even yielded seasons similar to Earth’s.
Scientists are now putting more effort into understanding how ancient Mars’ atmosphere worked since they claim the red giant is the sole planetary environment known to man, so far, that could have supported life in the past. Assistant professor of environmental science and engineering at Harvard, Robin Wordsworth, claimed that Mars could possibly be hiding some vital clues about life on other planets outside the solar system.
According to the researchers’ calculation, Mars’ atmosphere at the moment is composed of 95 percent CO2. However, carbon dioxide on its own does not account for the planet’s warming periods. Upon conducting a closer analysis of the planet’s current atmosphere, the scientists concluded that methane along with other gasses contributed to the warming spells.
Since methane is easily lost to space over time, especially by rocky planets such as Mars, the researchers were forced to run a simulation of the planet’s atmosphere as it was 4 billion years ago. Robin Wordsworth revealed the researchers used hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane and watched how the masses interacted with photons.
“When you’re looking at exotic atmospheres, you can’t compare them to Earth’s atmosphere”, said Robin Wordsworth.
Instead, researchers had to use the main ingredients that made up Mars’ atmosphere four billion years ago. Upon analyzing the results, the scientist determined the combination of gasses absorbed much more solar energy than previously thought, leading the researchers to state that previous warming effects of the hydrogen-methane-carbon dioxide combination had been severely underestimated.
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