Sampling methane in hydrothermal minerals on Earth and Mars

Sean McMahon*, John Parnell, Nigel J.F. Blamey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The source of Martian atmospheric methane is unknown. On Earth, hydrothermal mineral deposits contain ancient methane together with a host of chemical and geological lines of evidence for the mechanism of gas production. Such deposits are therefore potentially attractive sampling sites on Mars. In order to evaluate this potential, hydrothermal calcite veins were sampled across the Caithness region of Scotland and analysed for methane by an incremental-crushing mass spectrometry technique that may be adaptable to Mars rovers. Methane was detected in all samples. Variations in the quantity of methane released were found to relate directly to the geological history of the localities. Calcite particle size was found to affect measurements in a systematic and informative way. Oxidative weathering had no discernable effect on methane recoverability. These results suggest that the technique is sensitive and informative enough to deserve consideration for missions to Mars.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-167
Number of pages5
JournalInternational Journal of Astrobiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2012


  • fluid inclusion
  • hydrothermal
  • Mars
  • mass spectrometry
  • methane
  • volatile


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