A new study suggests that Mars had a large ocean covering one fifth of its surface. The Mars ocean hypothesis isn’t new, but this new study has new data to support it. The research was published in the online journal of Science.
It appears that large portions of the Red Planet were covered by a vast ocean which only increase the odds that Mars was once a habitable planet.
The researchers have analyzed chemical signature in the atmosphere of the Red Plant and after careful inspection of the data it was concluded that around 4.2 billion years ago, there was a body of water that covered one-fifth of the surface of the planet. The vast ocean most likely had a depth of one mile and contained around 5 million cubic miles of water.
John Bridges, planetary scientist at the Leicester University and team member of NASA’s Curiosity rover mission said that now scientists are certain that there were long-standing bodies of water on the surface of Mars, such as seas, lakes and deltas. He believes that this only tells the science world that Mars was habitable and not necessarily inhabited.
So how was the data obtained? The scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland observed over the course of six years the atmosphere above Mars’ south and north poles. This was possible thanks to the W.M. Keck Observatory and NASA Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in northern Chile.
The researchers then compared the concentrations of normal water in the atmosphere to those of heavy water and discovered that the concentration of deuterium (found in heavy water) over the polar ice caps was much higher than is observed in the oceans of Earth.
This means that a long time ago, Mars must have lost a large amount of normal water, around 6.5 times greater than the amount found in the polar ice caps today.
Co-author of the study and senior scientist at Goddard, Michael Mumma, revealed in a statement:
With Mars losing that much water, the planet was very likely wet for a longer period of time than was previously thought, suggesting it might have been habitable for longer.
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