General, Research, Technology

What happened to water on Mars? It seems scientists have found the answer

In 1971, thanks to the mission "Mariner 9"the first evidence of the existence of water on the Red Planet appeared. By the way, it was then that David Bowie sang his famous song "Is there life on Mars?" Then, in December of the same year, the Soviet descent automatic interplanetary station (AMS) "Mars-3" was launched to Mars, during which many factors were established, including the measured content of water vapor in the planet's atmosphere. Today, 49 years later, scientists believe that billions of years ago, Mars was much warmer and contained oceans of liquid water. But where did all this water go? Recently, thanks to NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft, scientists have gained a deeper understanding of the Red Planet's atmosphere and seem to have found an answer to this question. It turns out that dust storms and the peculiarities of its atmosphere led to the complete drainage of this planet.

In 2001, a dust storm engulfed all of Mars.

Where did the Martian water go?

In 2017, researchers from OxfordThe university theorized that most of the water was trapped inside Martian rocks, which soaked up liquid water like a giant sponge. Using computer simulations and data collected about rocks here on Earth, an international team of scientists have concluded that basaltic rocks on Mars can hold up to 25% more water than equivalent rocks on our own planet. This may help explain where the water disappeared to.

“Scientists have long thought about the question of whereMartian water is gone, but we have never tested the theory of water absorption as a result of simple rock reactions, ”said Sciencealert, lead author of the study, John Wade of the University of Oxford.

View of an ancient network of river valleys on Mars

Due to differences in temperature, pressure andchemical composition of the rocks themselves, water on Mars could be absorbed by the rocky surface, while the Earth retained its lakes and oceans, write the authors of the work, published in the journal Nature. But rocky and rocks could hardly have absorbed all of the Martian water.

An interesting fact - today, thanks to the research of an international team of scientists, we know that under the surface of Mars there is a system of underground lakes. The authors of several scientific works at once believe thatthat the water in these lakes is salty, but there is still debate in the scientific community about this. The situation should clear up in February 2021, when the Chinese Tianwen 1 orbiter enters the Martian atmosphere.

Secrets of the Martian atmosphere

To understand where the Martian water has gonescientists looked up - about 150 kilometers above the surface of Mars. As the Inverse writes, studying this specific part of the planet's atmosphere, not its surface, was critical to scientists' new understanding of what happened to Martian water.

Part of the atmosphere that scientists are interested ingoes into space. As the authors of the work, published in the journal Science, write, this is not some kind of hard edge, but rather a smooth transition. All planets with an atmosphere, including the Earth, have this transitional space, which we call the exosphere - the place where light from the stars splits neutral molecules into their constituent parts, for example, carbon dioxide into carbon and oxygen.

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And it is in this transitional space that the teamfound traces of water. "This is a real surprise and has significant implications for understanding where the water from the planet went," the study authors write. Dust devils - According to new data, dust storms rising from the surface of Mars appear to have slowly sucked up the planet's water over millions of years, sweeping water molecules on a wild journey into the atmosphere.

The atmosphere of the Red Planet is a shell of gas. It differs significantly from the earth's atmosphere both in chemical composition and in physical parameters.

The same happens on our planet -the evaporated water molecules move upward until they condense from gas back into liquid, turning into rain clouds. The place where this process takes place is called the thermopause.

Thermopause - the upper layer of the planet's atmosphere, located above the thermosphere, characterized by a transition to a constant temperature. The exosphere is located above.

On Mars, thermal pause doesn't work as efficientlyas it should and not as efficiently as the Earth's thermal pause. As a result, when water moves into the upper atmosphere of Mars, it reacts with atmospheric molecules and splits into hydrogen and oxygen - hydrogen can then leave the Martian atmosphere entirely, research suggests - and is ultimately lost forever in space.

Discovery of scientists from the University of Arizonasheds light on the evolution of the Red Planet from a possibly Earth-like world to the desert planet we know today. Scientists believe that although the surface of Mars is riddled with ancient lakes and rivers, the only remaining water may be trapped underground.

See also: How deep can life exist on Mars?

Dust devils

American artificial satellite forexploration of the Martian atmosphere MAVEN can conduct exploration during Martian dust storms. While most other satellites make circular orbits, meaning they look at the same part of Mars at the same time of day over and over again, Maven “continually tries different conditions on Mars in terms of time of day, longitude, and latitude, "the researchers write.

Dust storms on the Red Planet are commonplace

Dust storms on Mars occur regularly and indifferent regions of the planet, but in 2018 the planet was overtaken by a global storm. However, for the team of scientists, this event turned out to be a success, as it provided "an unprecedented view of how the entire planet responds to a storm." But not everyone appreciated that storm. NASA's rover Opportunity patrolled the surface of Mars. Dust raised during the storm settled on the solar panels of the craft, blocking the sun's rays and depriving it of energy, ultimately ending the historic journey.