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Space & Astronomy

Oceans of water could still be hidden on Mars

By T.K. Randall
March 17, 2021 · Comment icon 5 comments

Mars may not be quite as dry as it generally appears. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
Despite its cold, dry and barren exterior, Mars may be hiding large quantities of water beneath its surface.
The idea that Mars was once covered in oceans and rivers of liquid water is well established; billions of years ago its surface was home to around the same amount of water as the Atlantic Ocean, thus raising the possibility that it may have once supported primitive forms of extraterrestrial life.

Since then however, Mars lost most of its water, leaving the barren surface we see today.

The prevailing theory is that after the planet lost its protective magnetic field, the majority of the water and atmosphere of Mars was stripped away by the solar wind coming from the Sun.

Most of the water that was lost disappeared between 4.1 billion and 3.7 billion years ago.
"Mars basically became the dry, arid planet we know today 3 billion years ago," said study lead author Eva Scheller from the California Institute of Technology.

Now however, data from NASA's MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) mission as well as the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter has suggested that the amount of water Mars could have lost over the last few billion years was much smaller than previously thought.

Scientists now believe that a significant amount of water could still be there, locked up inside the crystal structures of rocks deep in the planet's crust.

Just how accessible this remaining water will be to future Mars explorers however remains unclear.

Source: | Comments (5)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Ernest 3 years ago
Maybe there are sea monsters there
Comment icon #2 Posted by DanL 3 years ago
There could be oceans on Mars and we wouldn't be able to see them. They would be frozen hard as a rock and covered with the Martian dust from the endless annual dust storms. If the temperature there rises to near the freezing point of water that would be a scalding hot summer day there. If H2O exists on Mars it is as a solid or possibly a gas but not a liquid.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 3 years ago
Actually we would be able to detect them. The temperature on Mars can reach 20oC, in summer, at the equator. That is more than enough to unfreeze them. You are correct that liquid water can not exist on the Martian surface, this is because of the very low atmospheric pressure, but at these temperatures water would sublime (go straight from ice to vapour without going through the liquid phase). Such large amounts of water vapour would be easily detectable by any one of the spacecraft orbiting Mars.
Comment icon #4 Posted by keithisco 3 years ago
Absolutely correct...these "Oceans" would need to be hermetically sealed from the surface because they would simply sublime into a gaseous form. These would be undetectable by any orbiting satellite unless they were in the right place at the right time. One would have to suppose that any breach of subterraneous ice formation to the surface was of sufficient quantity to actually register such an event.  
Comment icon #5 Posted by keithisco 3 years ago
firstly you need to understand that 20C is solely a potential temperature at the surface of mars (solar forcing), this is not an atmospheric temperature because the atmosphere cannot retain this temperature due to its low pressure. There are insufficient particulate molecules to maintain this temperature above the surface of Mars

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