Could Mars once conserve water and make life possible? In a study, researchers found a possible cause of drought on the planet.
St. Louis/Frankfurt – When Mars is explored, it is mostly about water and closely related to the question of whether the Red Planet ever harbored life. In the eyes of research, they both belong together: where there is no water, life, as humanity knows, faces hard times. There was water on Mars once in space exploration Undisputed – but the reason for his disappearance is not clear. In a study, researchers have now developed a new theory that could also have an impact on the search for habitable planets in space.
Researchers led by Kun Wang from Washington University in St. Louis, USA are certain: “The fate of Mars was determined from the beginning.” The research team examined Martian meteorites for volatile elements such as potassium, among other things. It turns out that there are fewer volatile potassium isotopes in meteorites from Mars than there are on Earth – but more heavy isotopes have been found. From this, the experts of their study concluded that Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences It became: Mars lost volatile components – and water is more volatile than light potassium isotopes – very early on.
The fate of Mars was predetermined from the beginning.
Mars: Is the planet too small to hold water at the surface?
In their work, the researchers found that there is a relationship between the size of a celestial body and its composition of potassium. “This is a new discovery that has important quantitative implications for when and how disparate planets absorbed and lost their volatiles,” said Katharina Luders, who is also conducting research at Washington University in St.
“There is likely to be a limit on the size of rocky planets to store enough water to enable habitability and plate tectonics,” Wang explains in a statement from his university, and continues: “The mass exceeds that of Mars.” Small enough to store water, the researchers concluded.
Mars: “Undisputedly” that there was liquid water on the surface
Wang asserts that “there is no question of liquid water on the surface of Mars.” However, it is difficult to determine the amount by remote sensing missions and roving vehicles alone. “There are many studies on the amount of water on Mars, and in some of them early Mars was wetter than Earth. We don’t believe it,” Wang explains.
The researchers believe that the research conducted by Wang’s team is specifically related to the planet Mars, but should also have an impact on the search for life on other planets outside the solar system. Until now, when searching for exoplanets that could harbor life, special attention has been paid to whether they are located in the so-called “habitable zone” of their star. What is meant is the distance from the star at which liquid water can be. In the future, Wang says, the size of the planets must also be taken into account. Its co-author, Klaus Mezger (University of Bern), asserts: “These findings will guide astronomers in their search for habitable exoplanets in other solar systems.”
Was there once life on Mars? This question is still unanswered
This is also what Wang sees: It is easy to determine the size of an exoplanet. “Based on its size and mass, we now know whether an exoplanet is a candidate for life or not, because the limiting factor for storing volatiles is its size,” Wang explains.
However, that doesn’t say if there is life on Mars. In order to clarify this question, NASA’s “Perseverance” rover is currently exploring Mars. The probe has already taken, examined and stored the first rock samples from the Red Planet for future transportation to Earth. By then, at the latest, experts will be able to examine material from Mars directly for the first time — and perhaps answer once and for all the question that has haunted them for so long: Was there ever life on Mars?
Later, human expeditions to the red planet can continue to search the site. Humans could have flown to Mars for the first time in the 1930s – were it not for problems like radiation on Mars, which is fatal to humans in the long run, or the fact that humans can barely take resources with them and have to use the resources of Mars instead. (tab)