Published: Sat, January 11, 2020
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Mars Loses Water Faster Than Previously Believed

Mars Loses Water Faster Than Previously Believed

Mars today is cold and dry - a desert world - but dry river valleys and lakebeds suggest that water covered much of the Red Planet billions of years ago.

An worldwide research team has discovered unexpectedly large amounts of water vapor accumulating at an altitude of 80km up in the Martian atmosphere.

Sunlight and chemistry disassociate water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen atoms that the weak gravity of Mars can not prevent from escaping into space, they said.

However, boffins have now found pockets in the atmosphere containing 10 to 100 times more water vapor than should theoretically be possible given the temperature, in a phenomenon known as "supersaturation." .

When they are broken down, Mars's weak gravity is unable to keep hold of them and they disappear off into space, according to the study, published in the journal Science. Although various formations on Mars showed that the planet once had more water, the planet gradually began to turn into a dry place.

The water vapour is evidence the Red Planet was once hotter, wetter and more likely to host life than it is today.

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With the observed supersaturation rates, the capacity of water to escape would greatly increase during certain seasons, the researchers said.

It's been confirmed that the current water particles are mysteriously disappearing from the surface of Mars.

The oversaturation of water in the atmosphere allowed water to reach the upper atmosphere, something which scientists previously thought was impossible.

All that remains of the planet's once plentiful water is now trapped as ice in the Red Planet's polar ice caps.

In order to shed some light on these events, scientists analyzed data from the Mars-circling Trace Gas Orbiter, which is a part of the European-Russian ExoMars program.

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