The MARSIS radar on board the European Space Agency (ESA) Mars Express spacecraft has found evidence of a large body of water that once covered part of Mars.
The study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters indicates that the ESA research team used two years of MARSIS data to compare the subsurface materials around Mars’s south and north poles.
The results showed some fundamental differences between the two hemispheres.
The ESA radar detected a subsurface blanket of low-density material around the north polar cap of Mars that could support the theories that an ocean existed on the Red Planet billions of years ago.
“We interpret these as sedimentary deposits, maybe ice-rich. It is a strong new indication that there was once an ocean there,” said Jeremie Mouginot of the research team.
Scientists mention two oceans on the planet. One existed about 4 billion years ago in time of warmer conditions and the other about 3 billion years ago when the subsurface ice melted, creating outflow channels that drained the water into areas of low elevation.
“MARSIS penetrates deep into the ground, revealing the first 60-80 meters of the planet’s subsurface,” said leader of the radar team Wlodek Kofman .
“Throughout all of this depth, we see the evidence for sedimentary material and ice,” he added.
This later ocean is believed to have been temporary and its water would have frozen and preserved underground or turned into vapor and lifted gradually into the atmosphere.
Astrobiologists plan to look further back into the Red Planet’s history to find out about the liquid water that once existed on the planet.
Any information and discovery about the history of the existence of water on Mars would help scientists find evidence of life on the planet.
Astronomers, however, note that the most puzzling question remains unanswered. “Where did all the water go?”
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