Mars Might Not Have Enough Water to Support Life; Here’s What It Means


Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis claimed that Mars might have never possessed enough water. Because of its tiny size, Mars may have been doomed never to have much water from the start.

According to observations from rovers and Mars orbit, surface landforms appear to have been created by water. It’s easy to envision that this dusty planet was once covered in flowing water, with gorges bigger than the Grand Canyon and alluvial fans that resemble their Earth equivalents produced by flowing liquid water. Indeed, some have speculated that Mars may have had more water than Earth’s Arctic Ocean.

Water: A Marker for Life

Forbes, citing data from multiple studies, said water has long been thought required for life on other planets and moons in the hunt for extraterrestrial life. Water is the one substance that all kinds of life require on Earth.

Astronomers usually note if an extrasolar planet is in the “habitable zone” of its star. The planet is at the right distance from the star for liquid water to exist in this zone, neither too hot nor too cold.

The scientists now claim that planetary-mass may be used to predict whether an extrasolar planet can store enough water to support life in addition to the distance from its host star. Researchers said there is a size limit for rocky (exo) planets to retain enough water to support habitability and plate tectonics, with a mass greater than Mars.

Researchers have detailed their study, titled “Potassium Isotope Composition of Mars Reveals a Mechanism of Planetary Volatile Retention,” in PNAS.

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(Photo : NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU on Wikimedia Commons)
Mars rock captured by NASA

Mapping History of Red Planet Through Rocks, Water

The isotopic abundance of the element potassium was determined using 20 Martian meteorites by a team of scientists. These meteorites were of various ages, indicating that they came from different periods in Mars’ history.

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Potassium is a medium-volatile element. Volatiles are elements or compounds that planets can easily lose during degassing. The team was able to determine what happened to other volatile elements, such as water, during Mars’ history by utilizing potassium as a tracer.

The study’s principal author, Kun Wang of Washington University, told Forbes that they sought to test Martian meteorites of various ages to determine if there was any volatile change through time.

Researchers might better understand the timeframe of volatile depletion on Mars. They discovered, however, that all of the Martian meteorites they studied contain the same K isotope makeup.

This implies that volatiles such as water may not have been lost gradually during the planet’s history. Instead, they were lost during Mars’ creation, when the planet was still molten. It is simpler for volatiles to attain escape velocity during this period.

According to the findings, Mars never possessed a substantial amount of water, which was linked to its planetary mass.

This might also be true for other heavenly objects. The scientists discovered a link between planetary mass and potassium isotope composition, which might indicate the quantity of water on the planet.

According to Wang, a planetary body’s volatile budgets are proportional to its size. This indicates that Earth has a greater capacity for water storage than Mars. As a result, Mars retained more water than smaller bodies such as the moon and the asteroid 4-Vesta.

RELATED ARTICLE: Can NASA Get Water From Moon, Mars? Virginia Tech Thinks So!

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