Scientists continue to be baffled by the data gathered by the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) which shows that the Martian atmosphere lacks methane gas previously detected by other spacecraft and landers.

According to the TGO’s two spectrometers, NOMAD and ACS, they found the atmosphere on the Red Planet with 10 to 100 times less methane than what was initially believed. Methane gas is an important factor in the study and the search for biological life on the Red Planet. This was taken from the fact that 95 percent of methane gas found on Earth was a product of various biological processes.

According to a report, the new data from TGO shows only 0.05 ppbv of methane which is way below the amount supposed to be in the Martian atmosphere. This means that it still has 500 tons of methane present, but the gas will be distributed through the entire Red Planet which could be insignificant to current studies of the planet.

“We can only report a modest upper limit that suggests a global absence of methane,” Oleg Korablev, ACS principal investigator from the Space Research Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, said.

The supposed drastic disappearance of methane gas could mean that a major geological event on planet Mars has occurred. Apart from biological factors, the gas can also be produced by geological processes. However, this theory was first believed to be of low relevance because scientists believe that gas produced through this process can easily be destroyed by solar radiation.  

This means that if the gas is indeed present because of biological organisms then it is quite possible that there is indeed life on Mars. However, the sudden disappearance of methane gas simply points out that the theory could be wrong and that the Red Planet is simply the dusty and lifeless planet it is deemed to be.

“The TGO’s high-precision measurements seem to be at odds with previous detections. To reconcile the various datasets and match the fast transition from previously reported plumes to the apparently very low background levels, we need to find a method that efficiently destroys methane close to the surface of the planet,” Korablev said.

Planet Mars Large bodies of water once existed in Planet Mars. Pictured: In this handout image supplied by the European Space Agency (ESA) on July 16, 2008, The Echus Chasma, one of the largest water source regions on Mars, is pictured from ESA's Mars Express. The data was acquired on September 25, 2005. Photo: ESA via Getty Images