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Martian Methane From a Cometary Source: A HypothesisIn recent years, methane in the martian atmosphere has been detected by Earth-based spectroscopy, the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer on the ESA Mars Express mission, and the NASA Mars Science Laboratory. The methane's origin remains a mystery, with proposed sources including volcanism, exogenous sources like impacts and interplanetary dust, aqueous alteration of olivine in the presence of carbonaceous material, release from ancient deposits of methane clathrates, and/or biological activity. An additional potential source exists: meteor showers from the emission of large comet dust particles could generate martian methane via UV pyrolysis of carbon-rich infall material. We find a correlation between the dates of Mars/cometary orbit encounters and detections of methane on Mars. We hypothesize that cometary debris falls onto Mars during these interactions, generating methane via UV photolysis.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Fries, M. (NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Christou, A. (Armagh Observatory Ireland)
Archer, D. (Jacobs Technology, Inc. Houston, TX, United States)
Conrad, P. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD, United States)
Cooke, W. (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Eigenbrode, J. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD, United States)
ten Kate, I. L. (Utrecht Univ. Utrecht, Netherlands)
Matney, M. (NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Niles, P. (NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Sykes, M. (Planetary Science Inst. Tucson, AZ, United States)
Steele, A. (Carnegie Institution for Science Washington, DC, United States)
Treiman, A. (Lunar and Planetary Inst. Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
March 16, 2016
Publication Date
March 21, 2016
Subject Category
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
Lunar and Planetary Science Conference(The Woodlands, TX)
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.

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