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Methane on Mars?

Duration:
18 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 19 September 2013

Methane could indicate microbial life on Mars, if it's there.

Microbial Power Storage
New data from the Mars Curiosity Rover, seems to have dealt a blow to the hunt for life on the Red Planet. Curiosity has instruments designed to detect the gas methane, which is thought to be a signature of some sort of activity, whether it’s produced by microbes deep under the surface, or made geochemically by seismically active hot rocks and water.

Methane has been detected in the Martian atmosphere before, by satellites and land based observations. But so far, the rover’s sophisticated methane sniffing instruments have drawn a blank.

Wired Microbes
Some bacteria can harness electrons from organic matter – using these, wired microbes, engineers have created a microbe battery, which can generate good efficiencies of electricity from sewage water.

Coriander Cleans Up Water
Heavy metals such as arsenic, lead and mercury can contaminate drinking water and cause illness and even death. Polluted water can be treated with things like activated charcoal, as well as much more sophisticated and expensive filters. But even the cheap solutions, can be too expensive for people living in poor communities. But now a team of students have been testing commonly found native plants, to see if they have the 'bioadsorptive' properties needed to clean up the water. And the commonly used culinary herb – cilantro, or coriander, is a great candidate. Luckily, in many regions where heavy metal contamination is a real problem, it grows like a weed.

(Photo: Planet Mars. Credit: Nasa/Getty Images)

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