Water Discovered on Mars

Water Under Valles Marineris

Recently, scientists have discovered significant deposits of water under the surface of Mars in Valles Marineris. Valles Marineris is a huge canyon system, similar to our Grand Canyon, but ten times longer, five times deeper, and 20 times wider than the Grand Canyon. This huge feature of Mars was discovered to hide water when scanned by the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. The orbiter was launched back in 2016 on a joint mission with the European SPace Agency and Roscosmos, and utilized its Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector(FREND) instrument to detect this water. FREND is able to map hydrogen in the top meter of Martian soil, and recently located an unusual concentration of hydrogen in the canyon system. 

Why is this Significant?

The region discovered to have this high concentration of hydrogen is roughly the size of the Netherlands, overlapping with Candor Chaos, a network of valleys within the canyon system. Because this observation was made solely on the amount of hydrogen alone, scientists say this could be water ice, such as ice at the Earth’s poles that stay due to the low temperatures. However, this region on Mars is near its equator, so researchers believe there must be other conditions at play to allow the water to stay. As said by Håkan Svedham, the project scientist behind the orbiter, “This finding is an amazing first step, but we need more observations to know for sure what form of water we’re dealing with.” 

Future Explorations

With this new discovery, there are also more Mars explorations scheduled to explore the new planet, and possibly scout habitable environments. In 2022, the Rosalind Franklin rover and the Russian surface platform Kazachok will both launch. They’re predicted to land on the planet in 2023. The Rosalind Franklin rover will drill beneath the surface of Mars in order to discover organic material which would serve as evidence that Mars had hosted life. It will explore the region Oxia Planum, which hosts a collection of ancient rocks abundant with clay, signifying they were once exposed to water. As these explorations continue, scientists continue to discover more and more about the red planet’s history.


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