Scientists have found traces of ozone and carbon dioxide on Mars where they should not be

Orbiter for the study of small components of the atmosphere (TGO) of the European Space Agency

has been studying the Red Planet from orbit for more thantwo years. The mission aims to understand the mixture of gases that make up the Martian atmosphere, with particular emphasis on the mystery surrounding the presence of methane there.

Currently, the spacecraft has discoveredpreviously unseen signatures of ozone (O3) and carbon dioxide (CO2), based on a full Martian year of observations by the Atmospheric Chemistry Sensitive Complex (ACS). Traces of these gases have been found where researchers did not expect to find them, in layers of the atmosphere where scientists "hunt" for methane. The findings are presented in two new papers published by Kevin Olsen of the University of Oxford, UK, and Alexander Trokhimovsky of the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

Most of the methane is produced on Earth inthe result of life, from bacteria to livestock and human activities. Therefore, detecting methane on other planets is extremely exciting. It is worth considering that gas is known to decay after about 400 years, which means that any methane present must have been produced or released in the relatively recent past.

Ozone, which forms a layer in the upper layersatmosphere both on Mars and on Earth, helps keep its chemical composition stable. Finding traces of ozone and carbon dioxide in the range where TGO hunts for methane is a completely unexpected result for scientists.

Detection of unexpected CO2 signature inthe places where we hunt for methane are very important. This trace could not have been accounted for before, and therefore could play a role in the detection of small amounts of methane on Mars.

Alexander Trokhimovsky

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