Mars: Scientists have discovered “hidden water” just three feet under the Red Planet’s Grand Canyon

The AEO ExoMars Orbital Probe (European Space Agency) It found evidence of a huge water reservoir under the Martian Valles Marineris Valley system, one of the largest canyons in the solar system, about five times deeper and ten times longer than the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

To make this discovery, the scientists evaluated the data recorded by the TGO (Tracking Gas Orbital Instrument) Frend (Fine Accuracy Neutron Detector), which identifies hydrogen at the faintest meter from Earth. Mars To measure its water content.

magazine Icarus Agree to publish the research, where it was revealed that an area of ​​the valley, roughly the size of the Netherlands, contained an unusually large amount of hydrogen.

“If we assume that the hydrogen we see belongs to water molecules, then up to 40 percent of the near-surface material in this region appears to be water,” said senior study author Igor Mitrofanov of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

“Using TGO, we can search a meter deep below this dust-filled layer and see what’s really going on beneath the surface of Mars, and most importantly, identify water-rich ‘oases’ that could not be detected with previous instruments,” added Dr. Mitrofanov.

While previous studies have found evidence of deeper underground water in the red planet’s mid-latitudes, as well as evidence of deep pools of liquid water below the south pole of Mars, these potential deposits lie many kilometers underground and are less accessible to people. More futuristic explorations than those just below the surface.

The new study revealed evidence of a “large, not very deep and easily exploitable water reservoir” in this region of Mars.

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Scientists believe that a portion in the center of Valles Marineris could be filled with water, in a similar way to permafrost regions on Earth, such as Siberia, where water ice persists beneath permanently dry soil due to constant low temperatures.

In the study, researchers analyzed data recorded from May 2018 to February 2021 by the Frend instrument that determined the hydrogen content in Martian soil by detecting neutrons.

Neutrons are produced when high-energy particles known as “galactic cosmic rays” collide with Mars. Drier soil emits more neutrons than moist soil, so we can infer how much water is in the soil by looking at the neutrons it emits,” explained study co-author Alexei Malakhov of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Dr. added. Malakhov: “Fred’s unique observational technology provides a much higher degree of spatial resolution than previous measurements of this type, now allowing us to see features we have not seen before.”

Researchers believe that the observed water deposits could be in the form of ice or water that is chemically bound to other minerals in the soil.

But based on other studies, they say the minerals seen on this part of Mars generally contain only a small percentage of water, “much less than these new observations show.”

Dr. said. Malakhov: “In general, we think that this water is most likely to exist in the form of ice.”

However, the researchers added that more studies are needed in this part of the valley to confirm the type of water these sediments contain.

While water ice generally evaporates in this region of Mars due to temperature and pressure conditions near the equator, scientists say the right combination of temperature, pressure, and water must be in place to prevent water loss from the planet.

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They say a “special set of conditions not yet clear” likely exist in Valles Marineris to conserve water.

Another speculation by the researchers is that the water is somehow replenished through a process unknown as yet.

Study co-author Håkan Svedhem added from European Center for Space Research and Technology From PREPA in the Netherlands.

Regardless of the outcome, the discovery demonstrates the unparalleled capabilities of the tools TGO To allow us to “see” what’s under the surface of Mars,’ Dr. Svidim added.

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