A recent research claims that more than a fifth of the planet Mars surface was covered with water. This claim increases the odds that Mars was once a habitable place.
According to an analysis of the Martian atmosphere an its chemical “signature”, researches found that a huge ocean, bigger than Earth’s Arctic Ocean, had once flooded Mars. It happened 4.2 billion years ago. The ocean contained more than 5 million cubic miles of water and its greatest depth was of one mile.
The results of the research were published online in the journal Science on March 5.
Scientists from the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, a NASA facility, put together the data gathered from Mars’ north and south poles atmosphere on the course of six years. The observations were made by the European Southern Observatory’s Telescope in northern Chile and also the W.M Keck Observatory and the Infrared Facility in Hawaii (NASA).
Scientist now think that on the surface of Mars were once huge bodies of water, like lakes, deltas and even seas, which greatly increases the chances of the Red Planet being habitable at some point in time.
By comparing the the atmospheric concentrations of “normal” water (H2O) to “heavy water” (HDO), in which on atom of the isotope deuterium replaces a hydrogen atom, the researchers found that the concentration of deuterium over Mars’ polar ice caps is much higher than the level recorded in Earth’s oceans.
The discovery suggests ancient Mars must have lost a huge ammount of normal water. While the normal water would have evaporated, the heavy water would have been captured in the planet’s water cycle.
The scientists estimate that the volume of water on the Red Planet was once more than 6,5 times the amount that is found on its ice caps today.
Michael Mumma, a scientist at Goddard and the co-author of the research, said that Mars was probably wet or a really long period of time, and this suggests that it could have been habitable.
According to the study, around 4,3 billion years ago, Mars had enough water to cover its entire surface with a layer of over 400 feet deep. Researcher are still trying to figure out what happened to the normal water that had once covered the Red Planet.
Image Source: New Scientist