As I have personally been interested in science especially astronomy and space exploration since I learned how to read at about age 5 and long before I became a true or born again Christian I can say with some basis that I have knowledge of the scientific side of issue of extraterrestrial life (intelligent or otherwise). My interest in astronomy and space exploration especially the human variety was solidified when I eye-witnessed the Apollo 11 lunar landings in July 1969 at a rented cottage in central Ontario when I was 9 years old. The laser reflector left by those astronauts on the moon to determine the Earth-Moon distance precisely probably still works and could probably be used to disprove people who believe the Apollo landings were a hoax if NASA wanted to use this means. I continue to be intensely interested in this subject and am a member of The Planetary Society - the largest grassroots pro-space exploration private organization in the world. I am also quite pleased with the recent and ongoing discoveries of unmanned space probes especially at Mars and to a lesser extent with the current unmanned Cassini space probe at Saturn and its moons especially with the Huygens lander to its large moon Titan that has a substantial atmoshpere with much methane and other hydrocarbons but bemoan the continued lack of appreciable manned space exploration. Although I have not taken formal courses in Biology or Life Sciences I have taken courses in Chemistry including one in Organic Chemistry and have read many articles on Biology in its different areas both from an evolutionary perspective and more recently also from a creationist perspective so I have some understanding of the biology area to comment on the issue of possible extraterrestrial life. I have also been a "born again" Christian for more than 20 years and have read the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation at least 15 times as well as done much Bible study including the terms heaven or heavens and heard many Bible messages and discussed Bible or Christian things many times with other people Christian or otherwise including the idea of extraterrestrial life. I write this article as from someone who has a deep interest, enthusiasm and support for both astronomy, space exploration, and desire to find at least bacteria or equivalent life in the present universe and as a Bible believing Christian that sees these two perspectives as complementary and not incompatible. I also am writing this article feeling that this is a topic of widespread interest to people of many backgrounds although from many different perspectives.
In Genesis 2:1 there is the expression thus the heavens and the earth were finished and the host of them. Although in Genesis 1 only the sun, the moon and the stars are mentioned specifically of things God made in the astronomical heavens, the host of the heavens would include also other objects such as asteroids, planets, comets, planetary rings etc. Although I can't be sure and it is true that no life, even the counterpart of Earthly microbial life, has been found beyond Earth in space so far it is quite possible that such microbial life could be found and exist and have existed in the past in our solar system such as on Mars before on the surface and now below the surface for which the recent recurring slope linnae (RSLs) and confirmation of recent methane emissions could be indications. There could be also current microbes on some other locations in the solar system in sub-surface water oceans in places like Jupiter's moon Europa or Saturn's moon Enceladus. There could have been larger scale life before on Mars when it had a denser atmosphere and warmer temperatures and surface liquid water and rain such as our counterparts of plants and animals and there could be large scale life such as plants or animals in the subsurface oceans of Europa and Enceladus such as fish or other marine life. I do not think there is intelligent extraterrestrial mortal life as we might have heard about it before from Search for Extraterrestrial Life (SETI) programs and the Bible would probably have been more definite to tell us about them to at least pray for their salvation if they had fallen into sin and needed to be saved and there is the problem of how they could be saved such as whether Jesus' death on the cross on Earth would count for their salvation or whether He would have to incarnate as one of them and die on their planet for the sins or such as hypothetical alien race. I believe bacteria and plants don't have either souls or spirits, animals including probably any beyond earth have souls but not spirits and only humans have spirits which allow us to have a relationship with God and be in His image as well as souls. I think the host of the heavens as well as the earth could include extraterrestrial life such as microbes in space or the heavens or large scale life such as plants or animals but not humanoid intelligent life but the host of heaven could be just referring to inanimate objects in space such as the sun, moon, planets, stars, asteroids, comets etc. and that whatever is out there was created by God but didn't evolve. We will just have to see. The scripture reference from Genesis 2 about the host of the heavens and the earth in God's creation that could include some non-spiritual or not intelligent life like microbes, plants or animals but might not is as follows:
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. These are the generations of the heavens, and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, Genesis 2:1-4
In 2020 the American space agency NASA conducted one of the first wet chemistry analysis of Martian drill samples from near the top surface layer of Mars. The wet chemistry expermients involve applying some liquid solutions in a cup to drill samples from Mars that are designed to detect a greater range of organic molecules that might be present in the Martian soil. These wet chemistry cups are part of the SAM instrument that contains an oven where material can be heated and gas phase byproducts can be examined. The location from which this drill sample was taken was in a clay bearing location of the Martian Gale crater called the Mary Anning region. It is thought that some organic chemicals that were discovered at the Mary Anning location that could be indigenous to Mars are benzene, toluene, tri-methyl and tetra-methyl benzene, naphthalene and methylnaphthalene. Most of these compounds are ring shaped or aromatic organic chemicals. No indication of amino acids that also have some carbon rings or fatty acids were found. Both these later types of organic chemicals would give stronger indication of life produced or biotic organic chemicals. The technique that was used in this wet chemistry SAM experiment on the Mary Anning drill sample was called the TMAH technique which is short for tetramethyl ammonium hydroxide also according to the paper Organic Molecules Detected With the First TMAH Wet Chemistry Experiment, Gale Crater, Mars at the (mostly virtual) 52nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference Around March 2021 by A. J. Williams and other researchers. This same THAH experiment was run on a sample of the Murchison meteorite on Earth that is known to have some complex large molecule organics. When the Murchisoon samples were subjected to experiment like the Mars Curiosity rover SAM instrument TMAH wet chemistry technique a variety or aromatic (carbon ring containing) or other organic chemicals were produced including toluene, trimethylbenzene, methylnaphthalene, 2-butyl-thiophene, and benzothiophene. In chemical processes involving heating of the Murchison meteorite organic matter benzene and naphthalene were produced. It is reasonable thought there could be a substantial mixture of meteoritie including organic meteorite material especial from carbonaceous chondrite meteorites that have impacted Mars and become mixed with its top surface over time and could explain some but likely not all of the organics detected in the Mary Anning or other Curiosity rover drill samples. Some organic chemicals detected by SAM wet chemistry processing of the Mary Anning drill sample that could be either indigenous or native to Mars and its soil or from the effects on the SAM instrument and chemical effects on it include pentamethyl-benzene, benzoic acid methyl ester, dimethyl, trimethyl or tetramethyl benzeneamine, dihydronaphthalene, 2-butyl-thiophene and benzothiophene. Benzoic acid was previously detected in Curiosity SAM experiments both from Mars indigenous or native soil and from the SAM instrument or SAM internal sources. The experimenters have not determined whether the source of the benzoic acid methyl ester or multi-methyl group benzeneamine organic chemicals are from the Martian drill samples themselves or from effects on the SAM instrument itself. Either way it is thought that the benezeneamine with 2 or more methyl groups is caused by the SAM wet chemistry anaylsis with the TMAH compound. This article also says that the thiophene (sulfur containing) molecules that were detected in the Mary Anning drill sample in the Glen Torridon area of Gale Crater, Mars were detected before by Curiosity in Gale Crater, I believe by the SAM instrument but not using the wet chemistry capability. This article says that the thiophene compounds detected this time in the Mary Anning drill sample by the Curiosity SAM instrument are thought to be native to the Martian soil rather than be caused by reaction of the SAM wet chemistry processing. The conclusion of the article was as follows: "Multiple aromatic (carbon ring or rings containing) (organic) molecules were detected with the first TMAH experiment on SAM and may be a mix of SAM-internal and radiation processed macromolecular organic matter of either exogenous (from meteorites etc. that have impacted Mars and mixed with its soil) or martian (of Mars etc. rather than of Mars origin following meteorite impact material) origin." The discovery of more aromatic or carbon ring containing organic compounds on Mars is significant in the search for possible ancient Martian life, even if amino acids in human DNA or other amino acids, haven't been found yet on Mars because some if not all of the amino acids in human and other DNA and probably RNA in life on Earth contain one of more carbon rings or are types of aromatic chemicals so we the detection of these other aromatic organic chemicals on Mars could be bringing us closer to the day when scientists find aromatic amino acid organic chemicals on Mars native to its soil or surface rock possibly from microbial or other ancient life there when Mars had flowing liquid water in Gale Crater and was more habitable including to life as we know it on now or in much of the history of Earth.
From a biblical Christian perspective that allows for the possibility that the Creator God of the Bible could have created at least microbial life or at least organics on other worlds these results show that there is a greater variety of more complex organic chemicals native to Mars and its top soil or rock than known before and that this TMAH wet chemistry analysis technique of the Mars Curiosity SAM instrument can detect more of them. These results show there is likely more complex and extensive organic chemistry material on the Martian surface near the top soil or layer of rock that quite possibly came from complex organic material that is abiotic from meteorite impact material or native to Mars but leaves open the possibility that some of the organic chemicals discovered came from some sort of microbial or very simple life biotic remains in the Martian soil from a long time ago when Gale Crater, including this clay layer, and there was a liquid water cycle and thicker atmosphere and some liquid water rain and flowing water in this Mary Anning and Glen Torridon area of Gale Crater. If these organic chemicals are the remains of at least past microbial life on Mars this could included in the several Bible references of God's creation of the universe as the heavens and the earth (and sometimes and the seas) and the things or host of them. However, it would not involve much theological problems for God or Bible believing Christians if only microbes or evidence of past microbes was confirmed on Mars or some other world or even of plants or animals are as we believe microbes or plants are life and created by God and might undergo microevolution within kinds and within genetic variation but not across or beyond kinds for their genetic variation which is macroevolution. We as bible believing Christians also believe microbes and plants are life but don't have either souls or spirits while animals have mind, instict and soul (feelings) but not free will as occurs in a spirit and are not eternal. If definite evidence of mortal extraterrestrial intelligent or spiritual life is found on Mars, a habitable planet of another star etc. that would be a larger but not impossible problem to explain for Bible believing Christian including how they could be saved if they sinned. However if the latter possibility is ever discovered it is probably more likely that instead of Jesus or the Son of God going to their planet to die for their sins in incarnation as one of their race it would probably be sufficient for their salvation if a translated or resurrected human, Jesus Himself or a holy angel brought their race the message of salvation through Jesus dying for the sins of humanity and any other mortal intelligent life in the universe. This salvation would not be offered to fallen angels or demons as they all sinned personally and deliberately when they were created perfect or sinless and did not already have a fallen or sinful-inclination nature like human beings and some possible fallen mortal or flesh and blood alien races could have if some of their original members rebelled against the Creator God of the universe or heavens and earth as humans do in our original members Adam and Eve.
In September 2020, there was a significant and surprising press announcement by the United Kingdom Royal Astronomical Society. This discovery and announcement was concerning the molecule Phosphine that is composed of one Phosphorus and three Hydrogen atoms or altogether having the chemical formula PH3. It is a heavier counterpart of the molecule Ammonia which has the chemical formula NH3 since Phosphorus is immediately below Nitrogen in the chemical period table of elements. This phosphene was first detected by the British team at the James Clark Maxwell telescope on Mauka Kea Hawaii and was later confirmed by them at the sub-millimeter wavelength telescope ALMA in Chile, South America. The Phosphine was found at an abundance of 20 parts per billion at an altitude of 45 to 60 kilometers above the surface of Venus. At this altitude the temperature and pressure are relatively similiar to that on Earth at sea level however there is abundant sulphuric acid at this level that does make this environment much more hostile than on Earth. The significance of this discovery is that this even small abundance of Phosphine that was discovered in the Venus atmosphere was at a level at least 10,000 times greater than would be produced by known chemical reactions. Also most Phosphine produced or discovered on Earth has either been produced artifically by humans in chemical labs or discovered near likely microbes or is produced naturally from humans or human bodies. However neither the means of production of Phosphine on Earth or the chemistry of the atmosphere of Venus have been very thoroughly studied. It is possible that the level of Venus' atmosphere of 45 to 60 kilometers where this molecule Phospine was discovered at least overlaps where a mysterious ultrviolet wavelength absorbing layer of Venus' atmosphere occurs. There is either some unknown chemistry or a possible unknown floating microbe in Venus' atmosphere to produce this level of Phosphine in Venus' atmosphere. This is already putting great pressure for the scientific community to give more emphasis in the study of Venus' including giving more priority for new space missions there including through its atmosphere. The American space agency NASA has largely neglected Venus for a couple decades since the Magellan mission of NASA radar mapped all of Venus from orbit around Venus that was concluded by the mid 1990s. If microbial life is confirmed around Venus in its clouds to have produced this gas Phosphine, it will make at least extraterrestrial physical microbial life much more likely including in other solar systems or potentially habitable exo-planets especially. If life is given confirmation as the source of this Phosphine on Venus it will likely embolden the secular scientists or public who hold to chemical and macro-evolution as the source and development of life rather than creationism especially by the God of the Bible. However, in the view of myself as a Bible believing Christian who supports true science I would say that if life is confirmed on Venus as the source of this molecule Phosphine in its atmosphere I could still support it as consistent with God's word literally in context. This would especially be with the fairly often occurring phrase in the Bible both Old and New Testaments of God creating etc. the heavens and earth and the things in them where life could in this case be part of the things in the 2nd or astronomical heavens as well as on earth. Some verses in the Bible that are worded this way include Genesis 2:1, Psalm 146:6, Acts 4:12, Acts 14:15, 17:24 and Revelation 10:6. If life does seem to be confirmed as the source of this molecule Phosphine in Venus' atmosphere or some other place in the galaxy I believe therefore as a Bible believing Christian that it could still be explained as part of God's creation and could make it a greater display of God's wisdom, glory and power as in Psalm 19:1-6 and Romans 1:20.
In November 2019, NASA announced that they had obtained results from their Curiosity rover that detailed the seasonal changes in gases in the Martian atmosphere in Gale Crater around the Curiosity rover. These results were for a period of time of about 3 Mars years, from 2012 to 2017 or almost 6 earth years. Over about 3 Martian years, the SAM instrument inside the Curiosity rover took in samples of the local Martian air. These atmospheric samples supported the established average values of the main components of the Martian atmosphere: namely about 95% Carbon Dioxide (CO2), 2.6% molecular nitrogen (N2), 1.9% Argon (Ar), 0.16% molecular oxygen (O2) and 0.06% Carbon Monoxide (CO) by volume in the Martian air. The values for these gases in the Martian air also indicated how the abundance of these gases mingle and distribute with seasonal air pressure changes. These seasonal air pressure changes are mostly due to CO2 freezing over the poles in winter causing a lower air pressure across the planet. The opposite pattern happens in the Martian spring and summer when CO2 evaporates from the frozen CO2 (dry ice) near the poles and again increases the atmospheric pressure. In relation to these seasonal patterns of air pressure and carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere, scientists found that nitrogen and argon follow these seasonal patters quite closely. The researchers thought that the molecular oxygen should have also followed these seasonal patterns but it didn't. Instead the values for oxygen increased over 30% above the predicted seasonal pattern for it for the spring and summer and then decreased to predicted values. However some of the measurements for Martian winter of oxygen were also significantly below predicted values for in for that time in the Martian year. This pattern in the oxygen levels occurred again each Martian spring including around the end of summer going back to more predicted seasonal values. These types of cycles in the Martian oxygen suggested to researchers that something was contributing oxygen at least to the local atmosphere around Curiosity and then taking it out again.
When planetary scientists following these results first saw these values or patterns, they were quite shocked. One of the researchers who was one of the first to see these results, Sushil Atreya, a professor of climate and space science at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor said: "The first time we saw that, it was just mind boggling". Professor Atreya co-authored a research paper on this topic in the November 12th issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. When the Mars researchers first obtained the surprising values for oxygen, they first checked several times the relevant instruments on the Curiosity Rover. This instrument is Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer on the SAM instrument. They found everything was fine with the instrument and it was operating normally. The scientists then thought about and checked if CO2 or water (H2O) could contribute the unexpected quickly increased values in oxygen. They determined it would take about 5 times more water above Mars to produce this much additional oxygen and the CO2 breaks up far too slowly to produce this much extra oxygen so quickly. The researchers also considered what could cause the equally quick decrease in oxygen levels in the late Martian summer to close to predicted seasonal values. They examined whether radiation from the sun could break up the oxygen molecules into 2 oxygen atoms with one being lost to space. They determined that operation would be too slow and would require at least 10 years.
The Mars researchers, including Melissa Trainer who is a planetary scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, noted that the oxygen values and the extent they depart from the predicted seasonal patterns isn't completely repeatable. The scientists said this somewhat random pattern in the Oxygen amounts led them to believe the Oxygen variations aren't due to processes in the atmosphere of Mars itself. They came to the conclusion the Oxygen values had to be due to release of oxygen a chemical sink below the surface of Mars likely around Gale Crater where the Curiosity Rover is located. Especially to scientists who examine Mars, these patterns in the Oxygen abundance is oddly similiar to the situation for methane. Methane has a constant presence in the atmosphere of Mars around Curiosity with an average level of 0.4 part per billion (ppb) but varies from about 0.3 to 0.7 ppb depending on the season with the highest values in the spring and summer. These methane values are very small but have been measured by the SAM instrument's Tunable Laser Spectrometer. This instrument showed that although methane increases and decreases in a seasonal pattern, it rises by 60% in the summer season for unexplained reasons. (Methane also spikes to much higher levels occasionally to 5 to 9 or even a couple dozen parts per billion for reasons scientists haven't determined.) With the newly obtained seasonal Oxygen patterns and values, Trainers's research team are considering whether the processes that drive the seasonal changes in methane also drive the seasonal changes in Oxygen in the local Martian atmosphere. The Mars researcher Atreya said: "We're beginning to see this tantalizing correlation between methane and oxygen for a good part of the Mars year. I think there's something to it. I just don't have the answers yet. Nobody does." Oxygen and methane can be produced both biologically (such as by microbes) and abiotically (non-living processes) such as from chemistry related to the interaction of especially liquid water and rocks. The scientists are considering all options but they don't yet have any evidence of biological activity. The scientists also don't have the means with Curiosity to distinguish between biotic (biological) or abiotic sources of the oxygen and methane seasonal patterns but they favour the abiotic source as more likely. (Personally another thing to check here and I don't know if it has been checked or anything relevant was found would be to see if there was any spike in excess oxygen in the area of Curiosity and measured by it when it measured the methane spikes.)
One type of biblical Christian view is based on biblical phrases like God making the heavens and the earth and the things in them. The things in heaven as well as on earth, in this view, could include living things and not just non-living or inanimate ones. If this view of this biblical phrase is correct, it could explain these unexpected oxygen and methane variations in the local Mars atmosphere could indicate microbial type Martian life. There are some other measurements that could indicate possible microbial life on Mars. These include the results obtained from the labelled release experiment carried out on Martian soil by each of the Mars Viking landers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. These Mars atmosphere abnormal Oxygen and Methane values and patterns could come to support the claim of Martian microbial life. However, even if this proves to be true, I would say that can just as readily be explained by the true Creator God - the God of the Bible showing more wisdom and power etc. in His creation of life than just creating physical life on Earth. Finding microbial life on Mars, even if it is indigenous to Mars and distincty in some fundamental way to Earth life including Earth microbes doesn't necessarily mean any Martian microbes are necessarily produced by natural random processes. These natural processes would be especially macro-evolution including life from non-life as many especially secular or non-Christian people would probably support more. Also from a biblical Christian viewpoint any microbes, whether on Earth or possibly on Mars or even on other planets or other stars, that are found would be living but would not have a soul or spirit. From a biblical Christian view, the soul is the part of humans or other beings where feelings and perhaps some awareness that large scale earth animals and humans have. Microbes also certainly wouldn't have a spirit (with free-will (as opposed to instinct) and worship of our Creator as God or someone or something else as god or gods (goddesses)) that humans only on earth of physical beings have. Therefore any microbes that might be found on Mars or other worlds would not in themselves require that a Saviour or Redeemer. If there were live on other worlds some people would think this would require such a saviour or redeemer would have to die and rise again from the dead and be incarnate on Mars or other worlds. Of course this salvation work is what God has done through His only begotten Son Jesus of Nazareth on Earth for human beings. An alternative would be that the salvation work only occured on Earth through Jesus Christ but that any physical spiritual beings in the universe that need to be saved would somehow hear the gospel of Jesus Christ or other parts of God's message to mankind or other physical spiritual beings through Jesus on His way to the third heaven, by holy angels or by humans who were caught up to heaven in some cases without dying which could allow such human beings to marry and have children with hypothetical aliens and combine their blood line with that of humans. Some instances of the expression of God creating the heavens and the earth and the things in them or host of them are in Genesis 2, Exodus 20, Acts 4 and Acts 14
Around August 20th, 2019 a science paper was published led by John Moores from Australian National University who is currently researching with York University in Toronto, Canada. The Canadian Space Agency and the US space agency NASA with their Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity) mission supported this study and their were research centres in the US, Canada, Australia and France. The article is officially published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters dated August 20th, 2019 with the title: "The Methane Diurnal Variation and Microseepage Flux at Gale Crater, Mars as Constrained by the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Curiosity Observations". Many of the layman's level reports of this journal report put this title in less technical English with titles like scientists move closer to solving Mars methane mystery. The basic methane mystery on Mars has persisted for at least several months. This mystery is about the extreme difference between the NASA Curiosity Rover on Gale Crater on the surface of Mars and the European Space Agency (ESA) ExoMars Trace Gas Observer in Mars low altitute orbit. The problem or mystery is that besides the occasional spikes of much higher abundance levels of methane in the Mars atmosphere the Curiosity rover has measured a consistant seasonal pattern in the local Mars methane abundance. This methane abundance changes on a regular seasonal basis each Martian year beween about 0.3 and 0.7 parts per billion (ppb). The highest abundances are consistantly in the Martian summer when the temperatures would be highest (that would be most conducive for both producing liquid water and to encourage biological processes such as of possible subsurface microbes that would breathe out methane). The Trace Gas Observer is more sensitive but did not measure any methane higher than its lower limit of detection which is 50 parts per trillion or 0.05 ppb. This is significantly lower that the lower part of the seasonal values in Gale Crater measured by the Curiosity rover.
A fellow researcher from Australian National University (ANU) Penny King summarized the findings of the researchers of this study. She said: "We were able - for the first time - to calculate a single number for the rate of seepage of methane at Gale crater on Mars that is equivalent to an average of 2.8 kg per Martian day." ANU researcher John Moores of the study: "This most recent work suggests that the methane concentration changes over the course of each day." He also said: "We were able to resolve these (Curiosity and Trace Gas Observer methane values) by showing how concentrations of methane were much lower in the atmosphere during the day and significantly higher near the planet's surface at night, as heat transfer lessens." There is a more detailed explanation of a possible reason for the difference in day and night Mars atmospheric methane levels in an article on this topic from https://earthsky.org dated August 31, 2019 with the title Why does Mars' methane vary across a single Martian day? In this article there is a quote from the original paper from the ANU researchers to explain these daily methane differences: "The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and the Curiosity Rover have recorded different amounts of methane in the atmosphere of Mars. The Trace Gas Orbiter measured very little methane (<50 parts per trillion by volume) above 5 km (3 miles) in the sunlit atmosphere, while Curiosity measured substantially more (410 parts per trillion by volume) near the surface at night. In this paper we describe a framework which explains both measurements by suggesting that a small amount of methane seeps out of the ground constantly. During the day, this small amount of methane is rapidly mixed and diluted by vigorous convection, leading to low overall levels within the atmosphere. During the night, convection lessens, allowing methane to build up near the surface. At dawn, convection intensifies and the near-surface methane is mixed and diluted with much more atmosphere. Using this model and methane concentrations from both approaches, we are able - for the first time - to place a single number on the rate of seepage of methane at Gale Crater which we find equivalent to 2.8 kg per Martian day. Future spacecraft measuring methane near the surface of Mars could determine how much methane seeps out of the ground in different locations, providing insight into what processes create that methane in the subsurface."
In an article based on the ANU research paper from August 2019 there is an additional relevant point by ANU reseacher John Moores in the Sky and Telescope web site https://www.skyandtelescope.com dated August 28, 2019. This article has the title: "A Possible Solution to Mar's Methane Problem and is written by Javier Barbuzano. In the printed version of this article on the top of the 4th page there is a section about the extent on Mars' surface to which methane emissions could occur which reads: "John Moores (York University, Canada) and his colleages have calculated that if local sources at Gale Crater were generating less than 2.8 kilograms of methane every day, that would explain Curiosity's overnight measurements but wouldn't increase global levels above Trace Gas Observer's (TGO's) 0.05 ppb detection limit. The researchers estimate that less than 27,000 square kilometers (or about 14,300 square miles) of Martian surface might be spewing methane at this low rate."
Professor Penny King from the Australian National University Research School of Earth Sciences summarized the most likely sources of methane taking into consideration the model used in this ANU paper to summarize NASA Curiosity and ESA TGO Mars atmospheric methane observed values: "Some microbes on Earth can survive without oxygen, deep underground, and release methane as part of their waste. (On earth these microbes are called methanogens.) The methane on Mars has other possible sources, such as water-rock reactions or decomposing materials containing methane. While what is creating the methane is still unknown, most scientists now think it originates from underground, periodically released through cracks. This again could be consistent with either biology or geology. The geological sources could include the water-rock interactions or icy methane clathrates that contain methane and release it during warmer temperatures. If it was rocks and water, that would still be an exciting finding, indicating there is still liquid water below ground and at least some residual active geological processes. That alone could provide a nice habitat for microbes, even if they didn't produce the methane themselves. Whatever the explanation for the methane turns out to be, it will provide a fascinating insight into current geological or biological processes on the red planet."
Some ideas for further research could be to, if possible, alter the time that the ESA Trace Gas Observer takes its methane measurements from the end of the day to sometime during the night (especially closer to the time of night that the Curiosity rover does). This would be so the Trace Gas Observer and Curiosity rover would be taking observations at about the same time with respect to the Martian day/night cycle. This change to get TGO measurements in the night would alse be so the TGO could likely get higher methane values when the methane emitted at the surface could ascend up more easily to the upper Martian atmosphere and give a higher methane abundance value there for TGO to measure. The other consideration that could be helpful, especially if changing the time of day for TGO to measure methane to the Martian nightside produces methane abundances above 50 parts per trillion is to use some of its other instruments for further analysis.
Although water is at much higher abundance than the expected abundance of methane in the Mars atmosphere, the Trace Gas Observer has the capability to determine between different istopes of chemical elements. It has demonstrated this in measuring the relative amounts of regular water where each hydrogen only has a proton but no neutron in its nucleus and partly deuterated water. In partly deuterated water some of the water molecules have one hydrogen atom of deuterium which is hydrgen with a nucleus made of a proton and a neutron. Unfortunately, the ESA TGO so far seems designed to take its measurements around Martian sunrise and sunset looking through the Martian atmosphere to the sun. If it could still get some readings of atmospheric components of Mars' atmosphere by looking at the night side and could get some appreciable methane abundance values perhaps it could seek to determine what carbon isotopes of methane are more common in the Martian atmosphere. On Earth life produces methane much more often using the lighter Carbon 12 atoms that have 6 neutrons as well as 6 protons in the carbon atoms. This is compared to life producing less methane with Carbon 13 on earth that includes 7 neutrons in their nucleii. If TGO could measure trace gases in the Martian night and it could detect some methane in the Mars atmosphere then this would be a very worthwhile goal to use its ability to discern between different atomic isotopes if it could be done for the lesser abundance of methane than water there.
From a biblical Christian viewpoint, even if it is determined how TGO can measure Mars methane and it or some other spacecraft determines it comes from biological, probably microbial sources, this would not be a problem for me as a bible believing Christian. I am aware such a discovery, if confirmed would likely be used by macroevolution or non-life to life evolutionary scientists to say it supported their secular view of origins. However I believe a positive finding of especially simple microbial life could also indicate a greater extent of the power and wisdom including variation of God in His creation in this universe. I do believe earthly animals have souls mind related insticts but not eternal spirits and only humans are mortal or material life that has eternal spirits and souls. I believe microbes and plants have neither souls or eternal spirits so they wouldn't have eternal destinies, free will and couldn't sin or need to be saved and forgiven of their sins. (This salvation would be as also for humans by Jesus' saving work on Earth when He died on the cross for humans' sins and rose again to give humans new life all in the case of those who trust in Him in this way). Even if life including methane expiring microbial life is found on Mars, if it has the same DNA basic structure as earthly microbes then it could have been brought to Mars before such as by riding debris from an asteroid or meteor collision on Earth before. If any discovered Mars microbes is fundamentally different from Earth microbes such as being based on different amino acids, something other than DNA or even something other than amino acids that could still be accomodated in a biblical Christian worldview. Such more exotic life in my view as a biblical Christian would only more fully showing God's wisdom and power under as with the above possibilities of extraterrestrial life the expression used several times throughout the Bible particularly of God's creation. This expression is the following or some variation on it He created the heavens and the earth and the things or host of them such as in Genesis 2:4, Psalm 146:6, Acts 4:24, Acts 14:15, Colossians 1:20.
In April 2019 a team of scientists with the European Space Agency's Mars Express mission led by scientist Marco Giuranna announced new findings of detection of methane on Mars. This detection is especially significant because the date of detection was on June 16, 2013 that was just one day after the measurement of a peak emission of methane by the NASA Curiosity rover in Gale Crater on Mars. The abundance of methane measured by Mars Express in June 2013 was 15.5 parts per billion (ppb) while the abundance of methane measured by the Curiosity rover was just under 6 parts per billion (ppb). Methane can be produced by various geological processes including a process called serpentization that involves contact with liquid water and appropriate rocks (I think especially one including the mineral olivine) and heat. Alternately methane can be and sometimes on Earth is produced by life including some microbes called methanogens that expire or breathe out methane. This biological source from methanogen microbes could also be a possible source of the methane observed on Mars. Even if it is determined that the abiotic serpentization process is the source of the observed methane it could still provide a promising place to look for Mars as it would be a location where there is subsurface liquid water that would provide liquid water and perhaps some protection from space radiation more than on the surface of Mars. It is thought that the methane detected by Mars Express was from the subsurface of Mars that seeped up to the surface and then proceeded into the atmosphere of Mars. Besides the closely associated dates of the measured methane spikes by the two spacecraft the location of the detected methane by the ESA Mars Express was relatively near Gale Crater in a location called Aeolis Mensae that contains many geologic faults and tablelands. Aeolis Mensae is about 300 miles or 500 kilometres east of Gale Crater. (Another name for the central mountain in Gale Crater usually called Mount Sharp in Aeolis Mons that is probably meant to indicate its proximity to the nearby and similiarly named Aeolis Mensae. Aeolis means that it is related to wind.) The Mars Express team led by scientist Giuranna had been focusing on the region around Gale Crater for their search for methane much of the time since the NASA Curiosity rover landed there in 2012 but the peak they observed in June 2013 within one day of one of the main elevated abundances of methane detected by Curiosity was by far the most abundant level of methane detected by their Mars Express team so far. The Curiosity rover has also detected a background seasonal variation on the ground near them of 0.3 to 0.7 parts per billion but this doesn't seem to have been detected by the Mars Express space craft. The Mars Trace Gas Observer also a project of the European Space Agency and doing science observations for more than a year now was specifically built to search for methane and other trace gases on Mars. However so far it hasn't detected any methane down to its threshhold which theoretically could detect the background levels of methane observed by Curiosity. There have been other spikes of methane detected by Mars Express, the Curiosity rover and ground based observatories on Earth but never before what could be termed a confirmation of two or more independent observation equipment observing the methane emission about the same time let alone from about the same location on Mars as in this case.
If this seeming confirmation of elevated methane detection holds up that both these observations are genuine from about the same time and place, as is believed by most of the planetary science community especially if it is determined that they weren't from a abiotic or geologic process like serpentization, then it would seem clear that these methane spikes are indications of some primitive methane emitting perhaps still alive microbes below the surface of Mars. Such a discovery would certainly be remarkable and have huge implications that life developed on more than one world in the universe not just on Earth. Although many people including scientists would then claim a second occurence of life beyond earth as proof of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution including of evolution from a chemical soup or from non-life to life the discovery of physical life beyond earth if confirmed could still be explained from a biblical Christian view such as I hold as indications of God's power and wisdom in the variety of His creation from such biblical expressions of God creating the heavens and the earth (and sometimes the sea) and the things or host of them such as in Genesis 2:1-4, Psalm 146:6, Acts 14:15 (with Acts 17:24), Revelation 10:6 and some other similiar scriptures. It is possible that the things in heaven could be not just inanimate things like stars and planets and galaxies and asteroids but also life on some of those planets as with the things on earth or in the sea.
In July 2018 scientists from the Italian Space Agency (ISA) and European Space Agency (ESA) announced they had found good evidence for a current medium size lake of liquid water on Mars. This lake is about 20 kilometres or 12 miles in diameter and at least 1 metre and perhaps up to more than 10 metres in depth. It is about 1 mile or 1 1/2 kilometres below the Martian surface in the south polar area plains in an area called Planum Australe. It is at about 81 degrees south on Mars. This lake is below about 1 mile or 1 1/2 kilometres of water ice with some rock mixed in. This lake was found consistently by 29 passes of the Mars Express orbiting spacecraft of ESA with its MARSIS or Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding instrument. The MARSIS instrument is a pair of radar antenae projected from the Mars Express spacecraft that can be used for ground penetrating radar applications. Data was collected in this project for about 3 years consistently from 2012 to 2015. The MARSIS passes over this lake were from different directions but with the suspected lake at or near the intersection of these passes and that was detected by most if not all of the passes from Mars Express. The MARSIS instrument is able to detect features down to about 5 kilometres below the surface. Apparently it is easier to detect subsurface features by radar in areas that are fairly flat and wouldn't have much variation in radar images themselves. The area where the potential subsurface lake was found on Mars is in an area that is quite flat on the surface. There are usually different degrees to which radar pulses are reflected with different materials such as rock, water ice or liquid water or briny or very salty water. The ISA scientists or other scientists associated with the MARSIS project such as Professor Roberto Orosei of the National Institute of Astrophysics in Italy consistenly found a very reflective area at about 1.5 kilometres below the surface in the same location. The reflective level in this area was consistent with very salty or briny liquid water. Some of the salts common on Mars are perchlorates of sodium, magnesium and calcium. These salts are all very effective at reducing the temperature at which water containing them freezes. The temperature at which water freezed can also be reduced if there is substantial pressure on the water by material above such as very thick levels of ice in this case.
(Similiar bodies of liquid water have been already been found on Earth below the ice caps of Antarctica including the very large Lake Vostok that are at temperatures down to -13 degrees celcius according to The Planetary Society's Emily Lackdawala and others. This would be due on Earth to some of the same factors such as the thick ice cap above and also very salty water but not as salty in this Martian lake. Some single celled microbial life has been found to exist in these subsurface lakes in Antarctica. The discovery of these subsurface lakes on Antartica was a main factor encouraging the ESA and ISA scientists to look for subsurface lakes under the polar caps of Mars.) I have seen different figures for the temperature of the water in the lake discovered from -10 ro -30 degrees Celcius to as cold as -68 degrees Celcius. No matter which of these figures is more accurate they still indicate there would need to be not just the pressure from the above ice cap but substantial amounts of salt dissolved in the water for the lake to be liquid significantly below the freezing temperature of water on earth at sea level without such significant amounts of salt.
As is well known NASA and other space agencies such as ESA and probably national ones like ISA have been looking for water especially liquid water on Mars to find direction where any past or present life there might be. Substantial areas of water ice and many features called RSLs or Recurring Slope Linnae have been found on crater or canyon slopes of Mars. They show seasonal patterns down the slopes and occur in the warmer weather or when they are more directly facing the sun and have been found to have some form of water measured in their location but partly because they mostly occur at slopes that aren't too steep some other scientists claim they are caused by falling sand or soil and not melting briny water but I believe and many scientists still believe many of these RSLs are caused by temporary flows of salty water. However any water from these RSLs or from this water ice on Mars has not been seen to leave any significant lakes or areas of liquid water even very salty liquid water. This is the significance of this likely discovery by the ESA and ISA and associated scientists even though this liquid water lake they probably found is far below the Martian surface and would be very hard to access directly. (Of course on Antarctica and Greenland scientists have drilled through similiar or greater depths of ice including to find the subsurface lakes in Antarctica but as the Italian scientist involved in this discovery and others have notes it would be very difficult and expensive to get similiar heavy and bulky equipment to Mars and then get it set up to work properly.) Although most scientific or general reviews or reports of the work by the scientists involved with this MARSIS instrument acknowledege they have already checked their reports very carefully to eliminate other possible interpretations of the strong radar measurements at about 1 1/2 kilometres or 1 mile below the surface of this Martian polar ice region many are still wanting more confirmation of their results from other scientists or projects before fully accepting the interpretation as the first discovery of long term liquid water body on Mars. Of course this is partly because it would be the first time it is discovered and would be a very important discovery if confirmed (which is already may be by the MARSIS scientists.)
If this discovery is confirmed to be a lake of liquid water and especially if other similiar or possibly smaller area liquid water lakes are found on Mars under the ice cap there this would open much better possibilies for area that life could exist on Mars. However as has been pointed out this water would be toxic for humans to drink as it is because of the high salt content. However it is possible there could be very simple and hardy life there such as single celled microbes or organisms. However it would probably be very difficult to examine them or even see if they are there without drilling down unless some current or recent geyser locations are found that could have brought some microbes to or near the surface. Probably any microbes that might be found would be quite different than earth life including quite possibly not being based on DNA like most Earth life. If scientists can find subsurface lakes or streams on Mars in rock and closer to the equator there the water might not have to be as cold and salty to still be liquid and could be more conducive for more types of life to live or thrive there. Such water could also be more accessible to any possible future human astronauts on Mars to drink or make the water drinkable. From a biblical Christian viewpoint such as I have I believe it is possible that scientist could find not just this but other subsurface water, including in rock closer to the surface and the equator that would be warmer and not as salty or toxic and that scientists could even find subsurface microbes or other simple life like lichen or moss but that the Creator God of the Bible including God the Son Jesus Christ as well as God the Father having created it and sustained it. At least microbes and plants are living but don't have a spirit and eternal nature and probably don't have souls or feeling like earth animals do. As mentioned above in this web page one reason I believe this is the fairly frequent expression in God's word the Holy Bible of God creating the heavens and the earth (and sometimes also mentioning the seas) and the things therein. Although I think this verse could include some type of mortal life in the second or astronomical heavens such as microbes on or under the surface of Mars or other planets or large moons of our solar system or others. However these types of verses of God creating the heavens and earth (and the seas) and the things in or the host of them could just mean the heavens and the inanimate things in the second heavens such as stars, planets, galaxies, comets, nebela etc. but it certainly includes mortal life on the earth in the seas of Earth. I doubt there is intelligent spiritual life on other planets in the galaxy or universe and certainly not Mars as such mortal spiritual and more humanlike life could sin since it would probably have a free will and then they would need a Saviour like God the Son Jesus Christ coming down in the person of Jesus of Nazareth is to human beings on Earth. Also the science SETI projects haven't obtained definite evidence of intelligent extraterrestrial life yet and most of the so-called aliens, UFOs or extra-terrestrials or interdimensional beings that have manifest and that don't bring the biblical message and are sometimes manipulative are most likely demons or fallen angels in disguise and so aren't technically mortal or physical intelligent life.
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