Billions of years ago, geological evidence indicates that the cold, arid red planet was much bluer. Enough water has been collected in ponds, lakes and deep oceans to cover the entire planet in an ocean of 100 to 1500 meters deep. This is roughly half of the Earth’s Atlantic Ocean.
The question is: What exactly happened to all that water?
While some water is frozen in the polar ice caps of Mars, Scientists had previously suggested that the water flowing on Mars ends up in space due to the planet’s low gravity. And while some of the water left Mars this way, A new study, supported by NASA, claims that much of its water remains on the planet and trapped in its crust.
“The escape from the atmosphere does not fully explain the data we have about how much water was actually present on Mars in the past,” said lead author Eva Schiller. Released In the journal Science, he said.
How Researchers Estimated Water Mars
In addition to analyzing meteorites, Schiller and colleagues used data from Mars rovers and orbiting vehicles to study how much water is present on the red planet. First, how much you lose over time.
One way to do this is to analyze hydrogen levels in a planet’s atmosphere and rocks. Water is made of both hydrogen and oxygen, but hydrogen atoms are not equal. Most of them contain only one proton in the nucleus of the atom, while “heavy” hydrogen contains an additional neutron.
Ordinary hydrogen has little difficulty escaping the gravitational pull of a planet’s heavier deuterium. Thus the ratio of deuterium to hydrogen (D / H) in the planet’s atmosphere reflects the loss of Martian water.
“Evidently, atmospheric escape plays a role in water loss, but the results of the last decade of Mars missions have shown that this gigantic reservoir of ancient water minerals exists, the formation of which has definitely reduced water availability over time.” Bethany Ellman, Professor. Planetary Sciences and Associate Director of the Keck Institute for Space Studies.
When water and rocks come together, a process called chemical weathering can occur to form clays and other water minerals As part of its metallic structure.
While Mars is still trapped between 30 and 99 percent of its water in the Earth’s crust, Schiller warns that it will not be easy for future astronauts to extract the water easily for their use.