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November 5 2012

No methane, but evidence for a far thicker Martian atmosphere

The first tests for methane performed by Curiosity have come back negative. At least during the rover's first weeks on Mars, any methane present in the air above Gale Crater was at levels lower than five parts-per-billion. But the scientists studying the Martian atmosphere haven't come away disappointed. Detailed measurements of the isotopes present in the first samples indicate that the Martian atmosphere was once much thicker, which may help explain the past existence of liquid water on its surface.

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