A large amount of water has been discovered on Mars, the largest canyon in the solar system
An extensive system of canyons that dramatically changes the look of Mars may hide the water.
The Mariner Valley combines 4,000-kilometer-long canyons and is also called the Grand Canyon of Mars; An unusually large amount of hydrogen has just been discovered in the middle of it. This is evidenced by data from the European Space Agency and a joint Russian orbiter (ExoMars).
The discovery indicates that at a depth of about one meter from the surface, the soil in this region is rich in water, both in the form of mineral-trapped and surface water ice.
“One of the instruments of the orbiter allows us to see at a depth of one meter under a dusty layer and see the environment there; “As a result, we have found water-rich ‘oases’ that were impossible to detect with previous instruments,” said Igor Mitrophanov, a physicist at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Space Research.
According to him, in the vast system of mariner canyons, the instrument detected an unusually hydrogen-rich zone, indicating that it is bound together in hydrogen water molecules, so that almost 40 percent of the surface materials in this region appear to be water.
We already know about the existence of water on Mars. We can see it with cold poles, in the form of ice. Much of the water seems to be concentrated there, as it is too warm near the equator to form ice on the surface.
It is possible that the water was beneath the surface, but during each previous search for artificial satellites from Mars, it was found only at high latitudes.
However, there is a completely different tool from ExoMars called FREND (Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector). Instead of reflecting light on the surface of the red planet, it fixes neutrons. As a result, it sees hydrogen content up to one meter below the surface of Mars. In this regard, his observations in the period from May 2018 to February 2021 turned out to be fruitful.
“Neutrons are formed when high-energy particles known as galactic cosmic rays hit Mars; “Dry soil emits more neutrons than wet soil, so based on the neutrino emission rate, we can deduce how much water is in the ground,” said physicist Alexei Malakhov.
According to him, it turned out that the central part of the Mariner Valley must be full of water – much more water than imagined. It strongly resembles the perennial drought regions of the earth, where due to the constantly low temperatures, water is constantly receding under dry soil.
The region with a high hydrogen content is about the size of the Netherlands and partly coincides with Kandori Canyon – one of the largest canyons in the Mariner system. Minerals in this region of Mars mostly contain very little water; Consequently, scientists believe that the subsurface substance is in the form of water ice.
It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. There is such pressure and temperature at the equator of Mars that it excludes the formation of such reserves of water. This may be due to a certain, unknown combination of geomorphological environmental conditions in the Mariner Valley, such as heterogeneously isolated deposits that have been there for a long time, or the angle and orientation of steep slopes.
To get an accurate answer, additional studies are needed that will not only tell us about the environmental conditions that allow water to exist at the equator, but also confirm what shape this water takes. This can be of enormous importance: for example, when frozen soils melt on the earth, we find frozen fragments of microbial life in it; Maybe that’s how we find traces of ancient life on Mars, if it ever existed there.
The discovery also opens up exciting opportunities for future research on Mars. Any crew mission will most likely land near the equator; Water from the surface not too deep will be of great importance to them, both for research purposes and for life.
And yet, this discovery further enhances the desire to visit the largest canyon in the solar system, the Mariner Valley.
“Knowing where and how water exists on present-day Mars is vital to understanding what happened in the distant past, once on water-rich Mars; “It will help us find vital planets, trace possible past life, and search for organic matter from early Mars,” said Colin Wilson, a physicist with the European Space Agency.
The research was published in the journal Icarus.