Scientists on Thursday confirmed the presence of methane on Mars, raising two possibilities: volcanos, or life on the red planet. \n"Methane should be short-lived in that atmosphere. It should last for less than a few hundred years," Andrew Coates, of the Mullard space science laboratory at University College London, told the British Association science festival in Exeter, England. \n"So there must be a very recent source, perhaps even a current source. The two possible sources could be volcanism -- very recent or current volcanism -- or life. All life as we know it on Earth, even down to the tiniest microbe, produces methane as a byproduct." \nMars was once an active planet: Mons Olympus on Mars is the biggest volcano in the solar system. But the planet has not been volcanic on any large scale for at least 3.8 billion years. So even if the source of the methane is geological rather than biological, the discovery is enough to set pulses racing in planetary science laboratories. \nEither way, the red planet can no longer be considered a dead planet. \nThere is tentative evidence of relatively recent, small-scale volcanism. \n"So there is certainly a good chance that it could be volcanism," Coates said. "But we have to admit a second possibility, that life is producing it. I think that it is a long shot. What we have to do is look at the evidence, look at the Mars Express data in particular, and this is what people are trying to do at the moment." \nThe concentrations of methane are tiny: no more than ten parts per billion in the wispy Martian atmosphere. But if Mars is a dead planet -- the assumption when the Viking landers first touched down on its cold, arid surface in 1976 -- then there should be no methane at all. \nSince 1996, after the tantalizing discovery of what looked like strange fossil bacteria in a meteorite known to have come from Mars, European and US scientists have hoped for evidence of bygone life. \nIn the past year four spacecraft have arrived at the planet, including Britain's ill-fated Beagle 2, the only mission specifically designed to look for life on Mars. \nScientists have also recently confirmed that Mars was once washed by huge rivers, lakes and ancient seas, that it is losing up to 100 tonnes of atmosphere every day, so that its atmosphere must once have been as dense, or even much denser, than Earth's, and that it would once have been a warm, active planet. So the conditions for life would have existed 4 billion years ago. \nThe requirements for life are water and warmth. Volcanic activity could be evidence of enduring warmth, and the presence of surviving water on Mars has also been confirmed again and again in the latest round of exploration. \n"There is a possibility it is volcanism. There is a possibility again that it is life. So it is a key discovery," Coates said.
French authorities yesterday said that they would close a Paris mosque as part of a clampdown on radical Islam that has yielded over a dozen arrests following the beheading of a teacher who had shown his pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed. The mosque in a densely populated suburb northeast of Paris had disseminated a video on its Facebook page days before Friday’s gruesome murder, railing against teacher Samuel Paty’s choice of material for a class discussion on freedom of expression, a source close to the investigation said. The French Ministry of the Interior said the mosque in Pantin, which has
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COVID-19 UNDER CONTROL: The two prime ministers agreed to ease entry bans, and allow short-term business visits and reopen flights between Vietnam and Japan Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in his first overseas summit since taking office last month, yesterday agreed with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to step up defense and security cooperation in the face of China’s expanding influence in the region. In talks in Hanoi, Suga and Phuc set up a basic agreement allowing Japan to export defense equipment and technology to Vietnam. Japan has been pursuing such agreements to bolster ties with Southeast Asian nations and sustain its own defense industry. Suga said that his four-day trip to Vietnam and Indonesia would be key to pursuing the “free and open Indo-Pacific” vision
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