Scientists have just found a vast trove of water hidden in the massive ‘Grand Canyon’ of Mars.
A team of scientists relying on the European Space Agency’s ExoMars Orbiter discovered a large deposit of water lying just underneath the Valles Marineris Martian canyon system, the Red Planet’s humongous canyon system that is about ten times longer and five times deeper than our own Grand Canyon.
After assessing data recorded by the Trace Gas Orbiter’s (TGO) Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector (FREND), the scientists found that just about three feet below the canyon’s surface lies actual water ice.
The existence of water on Mars could hint at microbial alien life residing on the planet at some point, as well as the possibility of more advanced life forms – especially if Mars had the sort of oceanic expanses of water on its surface that the Earth does.
The study was published in the prestigious scientific journal Icarus.
“With TGO we can look down to one meter below this dusty layer and see what’s really going on below Mars’ surface,” lead author Igor Mitrofanov of the Russian Academy of Sciences said in a statement.
“FREND revealed an area with an unusually large amount of hydrogen in the colossal Valles Marineris canyon system: assuming the hydrogen we see is bound into water molecules, as much as 40 percent of the near-surface material in this region appears to be water,” he added.
The massive area is about the same size as the Netherlands, meaning that there is plenty of room to potentially find more water.
“We found a central part of Valles Marineris to be packed full of water — far more water than we expected,” added coauthor Alexey Malakhov. “This is very much like Earth’s permafrost regions, where water ice permanently persists under dry soil because of the constant low temperatures.”
“Overall, we think this water more likely exists in the form of ice,” Malakhov argued.
Scientists are hailing the discovery as a tremendous first step toward potentially finding signs of ancient life on the Red Planet, or even possible venues that we ourselves may one day inhabit.
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