Mars’ water is being skimmed off the highest. NASA’S MAVEN spacecraft discovered water lofted into Mars’ higher ambiance, the place its hydrogen and oxygen atoms are ripped apart, scientists report within the Nov. 13 Science.
“This utterly adjustments how we thought hydrogen, specifically, was being misplaced to area,” says planetary chemist Shane Stone of the College of Arizona in Tucson.
Mars’ floor was shaped by flowing water, however right now the planet is an arid desert (SN: 12/8/14). Beforehand, scientists thought that Mars’ water was misplaced in a “gradual and regular trickle,” as daylight break up water within the decrease ambiance and hydrogen progressively subtle upward, Stone says.
However MAVEN, which has been orbiting Mars since 2014, scooped up water molecules in Mars’ ionosphere, at altitudes of about 150 kilometers. That was shocking — beforehand the highest water had been seen was about 80 kilometers (SN: 1/22/18).
That prime-up water diversified in focus because the seasons modified on Mars, with the height within the southern summer time, when seasonal dust storms are most frequent (SN: 7/14/20). Throughout a world mud storm in 2018, water ranges jumped even larger, suggesting mud storms carry water in a “sudden splash,” Stone says.
The highest of Mars’ ambiance is filled with charged molecules which might be primed for fast chemical reactions, particularly with water. So water up there’s break up aside rapidly, on common lasting solely 4 hours, leaving hydrogen atoms to float away (SN: 11/27/15). That course of is 10 instances sooner than beforehand recognized methods for Mars to lose water, Stone and his colleagues calculated.
This course of may account for Mars dropping the equal of a 44-centimeter-deep world ocean up to now billion years, plus one other 17-centimeter-deep ocean throughout every world mud storm, the crew discovered. That may’t clarify all of Mars’ water loss, however it’s a begin.