Oxygen on Mars Adds to Atmospheric Mysteries (11/20/19, New York Times)
There is not much air on Mars — the atmospheric pressure there is less than one one-hundredth of what we breathe on Earth — but what little is there has baffled planetary scientists.
Oxygen, which makes up about 0.13 percent of the Martian atmosphere, is the latest puzzler. In a paper published this month in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, scientists working with data gathered by NASA’s Curiosity rover reported that levels of oxygen unexpectedly varied with the seasons on Mars, at least in the neighborhood that Curiosity has been driving around since 2012.
That follows the rover’s reading earlier this year of a large burst of methane, another gas emitted on Earth by living things and which perplexingly disappeared almost immediately.
“It’s confusing but it’s exciting,” said Sushil K. Atreya, a professor of climate and space sciences and engineering at the University of Michigan who works on Curiosity’s atmospheric measurements. “It keeps us on our toes. Mars is certainly not boring.”
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