Researchers from the European Space Agency have discovered water in Valles Marineris, a deep and extensive canyon system on the surface of Mars. Image copyright European Space Agency
Dec 16 (UPI) – A European spacecraft orbiting Mars has identified a “water-rich region” roughly the size of the Netherlands at the heart of the valley system that dwarfs Earth’s Grand Canyon.
European Space Agency He said On Wednesday, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, which the agency launched jointly with Russia’s Roscosmos in 2016, spotted “large amounts of water” in Mars’ vast Valles Marineris valley system. The researchers published the results in the journal Icarus.
Water exists as ice in the planet’s frigid polar regions, but temperatures near the planet’s equator aren’t cold enough for the exposed water to remain stable, according to the European Space Agency.
The unexpected amount of water “is very similar to permafrost regions on Earth,” Alexei Malakhov, a researcher at the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences who co-authored a study on the findings, said in a statement. The water in these areas is stored in ice, which is permanently kept under dry soil due to the cold temperatures, he said.
According to the European Space Agency, the water can be in the form of ice or chemically bonded to other minerals in the soil. The water likely exists in the form of ice because other observations reveal that minerals in this region of Mars usually don’t contain much water, Malakhov said.
“This finding is an amazing first step, but we need more observations to know for sure what kind of water we’re dealing with,” said Håkan Svedhem, a study co-author and researcher at the agency’s ESTEC in the Netherlands.
Along with the rover and the surface platform, the Trace Gas Orbiter is one of two ExoMars missions that aim to determine if life exists on Mars.
Researchers in September questioned the research, suggesting that the relatively young planet may not be large enough to hold enough water to sustain life.
But researchers continue to find evidence of water on the planet.
NASA’s Persevering Mars rover has found that Mars’ Jezero Crater once contained a lake and experienced violent flooding that carried rocks into its crater, according to research published in October.
Previous missions, such as the European Space Agency’s Mars Express, have found only small amounts of water at low latitudes on the planet’s surface, according to the agency.
“Knowing more about how and where water exists on Mars today is essential to understanding what happened to once plentiful Martian water, and helps us search for habitable environments, possible signs of past life, and organic materials from the early days of Mars,” he said. Colin Wilson, project scientist for the agency’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter.
Water hidden beneath the planet’s surface was discovered by the Trace Gas Orbiter’s FREND instrument, which identified hydrogen in the planet’s upper soil, according to the agency. The water-rich region overlaps with the Candor Chaus Valley in an area of particular interest in research. It is part of the Valles Marineris Valley system ten times longer and five times deeper than Earth’s Grand Canyon.
This discovery makes Valles Marineris a promising area for future human exploration, according to the agency.
“Using TGO, we can look down one meter below this layer of dirt and see what’s really going on beneath the surface of Mars – and most importantly, identify water-rich ‘oases’ that couldn’t be detected with previous instruments,” said Igor Mitrofanov, a researcher at the Space Research Institute of Mars. of the Russian Academy of Sciences and lead author of the study, in a statement.
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