MicrobeWorld App

appsquarebannerad200x200

ASM Fellowships

Fellowship

Microbes After Hours

WaterSupplyYouTubeFrame

Click for more "Microbes After Hours" videos

Join MicrobeWorld

Subscribe via Email

subscribe

Featured Image

Featured Video

Ebola Virus explained

Supporters

ASM House 200X200

Bad breath sniffer to hunt for life on Mars

Image
If there's life on Mars, we might smell it before we see it. A chemical involved in bad breath and flatulence in humans could lead us to alien microbes on the Red Planet.

The sulphur-containing molecule methyl mercaptan is naturally produced in significant quantities on Earth only by microbes, including some that make their pungent presence known in the human body. NASA's next Mars rover is highly sensitive to the smelly chemical, which could betray the presence of Martian microbes, says Steven Vance of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The instrument in question is the Tunable Laser Spectrometer, which will fly on the Curiosity rover - set to land on Mars in 2012. TLS was designed to analyse the carbon isotopes in Mars's methane to search for signs that the gas has a biological origin. But the isotope tests might produce ambiguous results, so finding methyl mercaptan would help bolster the case for Martian microbes, Vance says. TLS should be able to detect the gas at concentrations below 100 parts per billion, according to his team's tests on a similar spectrometer (Planetary and Space Science, DOI: 10.1016/ j.pss.2010.08.023).
 
 

Comments (0)

Collections (0)

 

American Society for Microbiology
2012 1752 N Street, N.W. • Washington, DC 20036-2904 • (202) 737-3600
American Society For Microbiology © 2014   |   Privacy Policy   |   Terms of Use