Apparently Mars has had water for longer than we thought
According to a review of information collected by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), Mars only lost its liquid water well after the scientific consensus had been saying. According to the data, signs of the “liquid of life” were identified in mineral salts from approximately two billion years ago.
Before that, water was thought to have evaporated from the red planet three billion years or more ago, changing some understandings we already had about the evolution of Mars over the eons.
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For years and years, Mars had several bodies of water – some quite huge – running across its surface. Over time, however, solar radiation and the red planet's own electromagnetic field eroded its atmosphere. Today, it still exists, but it is so thin that it offers virtually zero protection from the cosmic rays of space.
The immediate effect of this was the disappearance of liquid water from the surface, which evaporated and left the entire planet with the desert and arid aspect we know today.
However, scientists at Caltech, led by doctoral student Ellen Leask, have reviewed nearly 15 years of MRO information, identifying the presence of various types of chloride salts throughout Mars' southern hemisphere — specifically, throughout a rich part of Mars. clay and highly permeated by impact craters.
These craters, in fact, were essential for the study: the fewer craters an area has, the younger it is. For this reason, the MRO has two very efficient instruments in this type of analysis: the Context Camera and the High-Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE).
The first consists of a wide-angle lens for black-and-white images, while the other is a color camera with such rich detail that it allows you to see, from space, the rovers that NASA has on the surface of the red planet.
The combined use of the two instruments allowed Leask and team to create digital maps of terrain elevation, realizing that many of these salts were located in depressions in the earth – points where they once corresponded to lakes. Combining this with the crater count, the team was able to estimate a date for the salts, which appeared to be younger than their supposed "end" had previously indicated.
“What is most spectacular is the fact that, after more than a decade of providing high resolution images as well as infrared and stereoscopic data, the MRO still allows new discoveries about the nature and evolution of these ancient salt lakes connected by rivers,” said Bethany Ehlmann, doctoral advisor, professor and co-author of the study.
The full paper was published in the scientific journal AGU Advances at the end of December 2021.
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