Science

Scientists May Now Know What Happened To Water On Mars

A team of researchers has discovered what may have happened to the water on Mars.

Water on Mars
karlfrey / Pixabay

What Happened To Water On Mars?

The surface of Mars looks as if it used to have water, and perhaps even entire oceans, but today it remains a largely dry and barren land. The question at the forefront of scientists’ minds is where exactly the water on Mars went.

Until now, there hasn’t been a reliable explanation for what happened to the water on the red planet, but a team of researchers led by Jon Wade of the University of Oxford thinks that they’ve found the answer.

Essentially, it seems as if during the early years of Mars, the planet absorbed far more water than Earth did.

“Because there’s more iron in the Martian mantle than the Earth’s mantle, that would make it more prone to reacting with water,” Wade explained in a discussion with Gizmodo. “Essentially, that’s what we’ve shown.”

The way in which the research team came about their new theory was through creating analytical models based on details gleaned from Martian rovers. Through calculating the details of the planets’ mantle temperatures and pressure, as well as estimating the early rock compositions, Wade and his team were able to compare Mars and Earth as they progressed through time.

Mars’ much smaller size and an increased level of iron seemed to have sent a large amount of water into its mantle, drastically reducing the amount of water on the surface. Earth apparently had a more buoyant crust in early history that kept the same thing from happening.

Although this information is a viable explanation, Wade explains that the current model does have its limitations. ““But everyone can agree that Mars had water in the past.” The exact origins of that water remain unknown, but this most recent information obtained from the Mars rover data offers a potential solution to this dilemma.

Other Explanations

There are no doubt other ways in which water disappeared, however. Tomohiro Usui from the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan wrote in a Nature commentary that some water may actually be located in ice deposits a few hundred feet beneath the planet’s surface.

“Subsurface exploration will be required to test both the hydrated- crust and ground-ice theories, and therefore to shed light on the evolution of the Martian water inventory.”

In his interview with Gizmodo, Wade said that he’s especially interested in what the results his team came up with means for our future here on Earth. While the amount of water on our planet hasn’t changed significantly in recent history, the iron in our mantle may lead to a loss of water one day far in the future. Further research is required for scientists to fully understand the history of water on Mars, but the fact that the research has implications for our understanding of our own planet is another benefit of this exciting discovery.

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