Did the Water on Mars Disappear?


Billions of years ago, Mars had considerable amounts of liquid water on its surface, sufficient to form rivers, lakes, seas, and even oceans and possibly to support life.
During the 17th ,18th and 19th centuries astronomers peering at Mars saw signs of life everywhere on the planet.

Once, it was a lake bed incrusted with clay. A tranquil image of a river flowing into a vast lake that fills a cavern.

But something happened in the previous billion years, causing red planet to dry up into a cold, dead desert world that we see now.

In the present day, most of Mars is extremely desiccated apart from the ice deposits in its polar regions.

Why Mars Became Less Inhabitable?

The terrestrial planets Earth and Mars have experienced two altered outcomes.
Earth has always been a habitat for microbes and a diverse biodiversity for ages but in contrast Mars has left behind a past of serene images.

Both Mars and Earth had a relatively thick atmosphere and a strong magnetic field.

Earth has retained these but in contrast Mars lost its magnetic field 4 billion years ago which in turn left the atmosphere to severe attacks by the solar winds and thus leading to its substantial destruction after 500 million years.

Where Did All the Water Go?

All these years it was believed that the water disappeared into space.
Hit by particles of solar wind, water molecules split and zoomed out of the atmosphere and lost to outer space.

But new researches show that mars didn’t lose its water but rather it is still trapped on the planet itself.

The research was carried out by a team from Caltech and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) led by Eva Scheller, a Ph.D. candidate at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

They found that between 30% and 90% of Mars’ water went underground, drawn into the planet’s rocks, where it remains trapped within the minerals and salts.
“We’re saying that the crust forms what we call hydrated minerals, so minerals that actually have water in their crystal structure.” Eva Scheller lead author of the new paper in science told AFP.

Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX has contemplated about detonating nuclear bombs on Mars to liquefy the ice caps and warm up the planet, making it more hospitable.

Those detonations might release some of the water in the hydrated crusts, though Ms. Scheller declined to speculate how much.

Two Ways

The team proposed that there was a combination of the two mechanisms: trapping of water in the crust and loss of water to space.
When water interacts with rock, chemical weathering forms clays and other hydrous minerals.

This process happens on Earth too. The movement of Earth’s crust pushes rocks down into the mantle. And volcanoes recycle the water back into the atmosphere.
But on Mars due to the absence of tectonic plates the changes become permanent.

Written by - Afra Meera Ahamed
Edited by - Gunika Manchanda

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