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Sampling methane in hydrothermal minerals on Earth and Mars

  • Sean McMahon (a1), John Parnell (a1) and Nigel J. F. Blamey (a2)
Abstract

The source of Martian atmospheric methane is unknown. On Earth, hydrothermal mineral deposits contain ancient methane together with a host of chemical and geological lines of evidence for the mechanism of gas production. Such deposits are therefore potentially attractive sampling sites on Mars. In order to evaluate this potential, hydrothermal calcite veins were sampled across the Caithness region of Scotland and analysed for methane by an incremental-crushing mass spectrometry technique that may be adaptable to Mars rovers. Methane was detected in all samples. Variations in the quantity of methane released were found to relate directly to the geological history of the localities. Calcite particle size was found to affect measurements in a systematic and informative way. Oxidative weathering had no discernable effect on methane recoverability. These results suggest that the technique is sensitive and informative enough to deserve consideration for missions to Mars.

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Corresponding author
e-mail: sean.mcmahon@abdn.ac.uk
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International Journal of Astrobiology
  • ISSN: 1473-5504
  • EISSN: 1475-3006
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