Written by Aahana Garg, a grade 10 student.
A new study that’s looking at Mars says that the planet has water. Here’s what we know
A quick dive into the mysteries of the Red Planet
Beneath the thin atmosphere of Mars lies an enigma, a desert landscape shaped by flowing water.
It is believed that billions of years ago Mars had a warmer, wetter climate with flowing lakes and oceans. Ancient Mars was thought to have enough water to cover the whole planet in roughly 330 to 4,4920 feet of ocean.
However, where did all the water go?
While some water can be found frozen in the Martian polar ice caps, scientists had previously suggested that the flowing water on Mars escaped into space due to the planet’s low gravity. And while some water did indeed leave Mars this way, a new NASA-backed study claims that a large quantity of its water – from 30% to a staggering 99% of it – is still on the planet, trapped within the minerals in its crust.
“We’re saying that the crust forms what we call hydrated minerals, so minerals actually have water in their crystal structure,” said Eva Scheller, lead author of the new paper in Science.
The main difference between Earth and Mars is that Earth has an active interior with plate tectonics, so rocks are churned up and recycled and their water is released back into the system. On Mars, the interior of the planet is largely inactive so these rocks don’t release their water into the atmosphere.
Without a time machine, the exact amount of water on Mars cannot be predicted accurately unless humans can collect fresh samples and study them up close. Alas, the presence of water on this planet does not imply that it is inhabitable. The water found is not free-standing but instead is entrained in the rocks and clay. Perhaps, one-day humans could make use of the hydrated clay to some extent.
Whatever use humans may or may not make of Martian water, the planet clearly has plenty of it. A world we have come to see as entirely barren is now not so barren after all.