Research: Mars water absorbed like sponge

What happened to the red planet's water?
What happened to the red planet's water?
Image: Jon Wade
With the desperation of a tattered, thirsty man wandering the desert, scientists want to know what happened to the water on Mars. But now, they think they know.

    Research by Oxford University’s Department of Earth Sciences speculates that what was once water is now locked in Martian rocks.
    The background is that roughly 4 billion years ago Mars was a warm, wet planet. Researchers believe most of the water on Mars was lost to space -- swept away by solar winds -- or locked into subsurface ice when the planet’s magnetic field collapsed, a university news release explains.
    But that might not be the whole story. And so researchers used math models to explore the possibility of a metamorphoses in which water was absorbed into the mineral makeup of the planet's rocks. “Our calculations suggest that in excess of 9 percent by volume of the Martian mantle may contain hydrous mineral species as a consequence of surface reactions, compared to about 4 percent by volume of Earth’s mantle,” according to the research, published in the journal Nature.  
     This marks the latest development in the debate over what happened to the ancient waters of Mars. In 2015, researchers made news with findings that under certain conditions water flows on Mars. They had observed what they call “recurring slope lineae,” basically, dark lines on the surface.  
     While exciting, that finding was wrong, another group of researchers said this year. The feature previously thought to be water was actually “granular flows,” the movement of sand and dust rather than liquid water, according to an article in Nature Geoscience by the U.S. Geological Survey.
    The new research is: "The divergent fates of primitive hydrospheric water on Earth and Mars," by Jon Wade, research fellow in Oxford’s Department of Earth Sciences, et al., published Dec. 21 in the journal Nature.


     Scientists say Mars has water

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