The value of ocean water may still be buried in a crust MarsAnd, and not get lost in space as previously thought, a new study found.
A previous study found that Mars was once wet enough to cover its entire surface with an ocean of water 330 to 4,920 feet (100 to 1,500 meters) deep, and contains about half the water in Earth’s Atlantic Ocean, according to NASA. statement. Since there is life almost everywhere on Earth where water is found, this is history Water on Mars It raises the possibility that Mars was once the home of life – and it may still host it.
However, Mars is now cold and dry. Previously, scientists believed that after the red planet lost its protective magnetic field, solar radiation and solar wind They stripped her of a lot of air and water. The amount of water Mars still has in its atmosphere and ice will only cover it with a global layer of water about 65 to 130 feet (20 to 40 meters) thick.
But recent results indicate that Mars cannot lose all of its water in space. Data from NASA Muffin Mission (Mars Atmosphere and Fluctuating Evolution) and the European Space Agency Mars Express The orbiter revealed that with the rate at which water vanished from the red planet’s atmosphere, Mars could lose a global ocean of water at a depth of 10 to 82 feet (3 to 25 meters) over a period of 4.5 billion years.
Scientists have now found that much of the water that Mars had remained hidden in the crust of the Red Planet, locked away in the crystalline structures of rocks below the surface of Mars. They detailed it Their findings Online on March 16 in Science and at Lunar Planetary Science Conference.
Using data from spacecraft and spacecraft orbiting Mars, as well as meteorites from Mars, the researchers developed a model of the red planet to estimate how much water it started with and how much water it might have lost over time. Possible mechanisms behind this loss included water leakage into space, as well as its chemically incorporating into minerals.
One way that scientists estimate how much water is missing on Mars in space involves analyzing the hydrogen levels inside Its atmosphere And rocks. Each hydrogen atom has one proton inside its nucleus, but some have an additional neutron, forming an isotope known as deuterium. Regular hydrogen escapes the planet’s gravity more easily than heavier deuterium.
By comparing the levels of lighter hydrogen and heavier deuterium atoms in Mars samples, researchers can estimate how much regular hydrogen the red planet may have lost over time. Since each water molecule is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, these estimates of the Martian hydrogen loss reflect how much Martian water has vanished, as solar radiation splits the water on Mars into hydrogen and oxygen molecules.
In the new study, scientists found that chemical reactions may have led to between 30% and 99% of the water that Mars initially had to trap in minerals and bury it in the planet’s crust. Any water remaining in space was then lost, which explains the hydrogen to deuterium ratios seen on Mars.
Altogether, the researchers suggested that Mars lost 40% to 95% of its water during the Noachian period about 4.1 billion to 3.7 billion years ago. Their model suggested that the amount of water on the Red Planet reached its current levels about 3 billion years ago.
“Essentially Mars became the dry, dry planet we know today 3 billion years ago,” lead author Eva Schiller, a planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, told Space.com.
New estimates of the amount of water buried in the crust of Mars range widely due to uncertainty about the rate at which Mars lost water in space in the distant past, Schiller noted. I explained to NASA Rover perseverance, Which landed on Mars in February, could help improve these estimates, “as it is heading to one of the oldest parts of the Martian crust, and thus can help us better explain the previous process of water loss in the crust.”
Schiller warned that although much of the water that was on Mars may still be locked inside its crust, that does not mean that any future astronauts on the red planet will find it easy to extract that water to help them live there.
“In general, there is not a lot of water in the crust of Mars, so you will have to heat a lot of rocks to get a good amount of water,” Schiller said.
Originally published on Space.com.