Scientists have discovered ‘hidden water’ just three feet below the Martian Grand Canyon


.’s ExoMars Orbiter 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 10 times longer than the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Scientists have evaluated data recorded by the TGO (Tracking Gas Orbiter) instrument Frend (Epithelial Precision Neutron Detector), which identifies hydrogen to the highest meter from Earth in Mars, a method of measuring water content, to achieve discovery.

Investigation, accepted for publication in the magazine Icarus, It revealed an area in the valley, the size of the Netherlands, with an unusually large amount of hydrogen.

“If we assume that the hydrogen we see is bound 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 US Academy of Sciences. Russia in Moscow.

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

While previous studies have found evidence of deeper underground waters in the mid-latitudes of the Red Planet, as well as evidence of deep pools of liquid water below the south pole of Mars, these potential deposits lie a few kilometers underground and are less accessible to people in the future. . More exploration than any other found directly below the surface.

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

Scientists believe that a portion in the center of Valles Marineris could be filled with water, similar to regions of frozen soil on Earth such as Siberia, where water ice persists permanently beneath dry soil due to persistently 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 conditions of temperature and pressure near the equator, scientists say the correct combination of temperature, pressure, and water must exist to prevent water loss from the planet.

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

Otherwise, the researchers speculate that the water is somehow replenished through a process as yet unknown.

Study co-author Håkan Svedhem added from ESTEC From ESA 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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