Scientists may have figured out where Mars’ missing oceans are hiding

While our Mars exploration programs recently reached a new milestone with the deployment of the Perseverance rover, scientists are working hard to unlock the secrets of the red planet. Eva Scheller is one of the experts with a strong interest in Mars.

She is the lead author of a new report examining the planet’s missing waters. We know that in the distant past it was home to lakes and oceans. So the question is, where did all the water go? Granted, existing theories suggest evaporation in space, but Scheller and colleagues believe that this is not entirely the case.

Oceans reach a depth of 1,500 meters

With funding from NASA, the team conducted a study to determine why Mars became the giant boulder it is today. Using simulations, the researchers found that the planet lost most of its water around 3.7 billion years ago. This approach also enabled them to know that the Martian seas were between 100 and 1,500 meters deep. Unfortunately, the apocalypse began when Mars lost its magnetic field.

Hydrated minerals

This loss of magnetic field gradually led to the disappearance of the atmosphere. Scientists believe that this is how Mars lost its water. While reports have been published in recent years that the latter were vaporized in space, Scheller believes they haven’t gone anywhere.

The water would be trapped in minerals in the Martian crust. Photo credit: Shutterstock / Stockbym

Instead, it would be trapped in minerals in the crust. “In the crust there are so-called hydrated minerals, minerals whose crystal structure actually contains water,” the researcher told AFP. In fact, Scheller estimates that 30 to 99% of the original water is trapped in these structures.

Further studies thanks to perseverance

To reach such a conclusion, the team relied on data from Mars rovers and meteorite observations. Scheller examined the hydrogen of the red planet and knew that it was a key component of water. As Science Alert explains, there are different types of hydrogen atoms. Among them is deuterium or heavy hydrogen. Obviously, light hydrogen can escape the atmosphere more quickly.

Except that the current deuterium / hydrogen ratio cannot be explained by atmospheric loss alone. The researchers therefore expect that water is trapped in minerals in the earth’s crust and that the atmosphere is partially lost. “Every time you have a stone and it interacts with water, there are a number of very complex reactions that make up a hydrated mineral – such as: B. Ton “, explained Scheller. The team hopes to further explore this theory with the data provided by Perseverance.