WAA Lecture February 1st: MARS

Friday, February 1st, 7:30 pm
Lienhard Hall, 3rd floor
Pace University, Pleasantville, NY

The Source of Methane on Mars: Geology or Biology?

Brother Robert Novak, Ph.D.

Department of Physics, Iona College

Observations from Earth-based telescopes showed that methane is present in the Martian atmosphere. Mars Curiosity and Europe’s Trace Gas Orbiter have supported these observations.

Is atmospheric methane coming from decaying life underneath the surface of Mars or is it from geological processes? On Earth, both these sources occur. The ratio between carbon-12 methane and carbon-13 methane differs between biologically produced and geologically produced methane. Also, the ratio between ethane and methane differs for each source. Identifying these ratios in Mars’ atmosphere will give us insights as to the origins of the methane.

Br. Novak will discuss the telescopic search for methane and the method for determining these ratios. Data obtained with the ISHELL spectrometer on the NASA IRTF telescope on Mauna Kea in January, 2017 (Mars Northern Winter) and January 2018, (Mars Northern Summer) were taken to determine ethane/methane ratios. Preliminary results will be shown and discussed.

Br. Robert Novak, CFC, is a Professor Emeritus of Physics at Iona College in New Rochelle NY. He finished his teaching career in May, 2018 and is currently working at raising funds for the sciences at Iona and is continuing his collaboration with the Astrobiology Program at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He holds degrees in Physics from Iona College (B.S., 1972), Stevens Institute of Technology (M.S., 1977), and Columbia University (M.Phil., Ph.D., 1980).

Free and open to the public.

Pre-lecture socializing with fellow WAA members and guests begins at 7:00 pm!