In previous work we proposed a hypothesis wherein debris moving along cometary orbits interacting with Mars (e.g. meteor showers) may be responsible for transient local increases of methane observed in the martian atmosphere (henceforth 'the hypothesis' ). An examination of the literature of methane detections dating back to 1997 showed that each detection was made, at most, 16 days after an interaction between Mars and one of seven small bodies (six comets and the unusual object 5335 Damocles)[ibid]. Two observations of high-altitude, transient visible plumes on Mars also correlate with cometary interactions, one occurring on the same day as the plume observation and the second observation occurring three days afterwards, and with two of the same seven small bodies. The proposed mechanism for methane production is dissemination of carbon-rich cometary material on infall into Mars' atmosphere followed by methane production via UV photolysis, a process that has been observed in laboratory experiments. Given this set of observations it is necessary and indeed conducive to the scientific process to explore and robustly test the hypothesis.
Space Sciences (General)
Lunar and Planetary Science Conference; 19-23 Mar. 2018; Woodlands, TX; United States