Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mars May Hold Twice As Much Water As Previously Thought

June 28, 2000
American Geophysical Union
Mars may hold 2-3 times the amount of water previously believed, according to a study of deuterium in its atmosphere and in a meteorite of martian origin. This water is held with the martian crust.

WASHINGTON - The crust of the planet Mars may hold two to three times more water than scientists had previously believed. This finding is based on a study by Dr. Laurie A. Leshin of Arizona State University, comparing the amount of deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen, found in a meteorite of martian origin to the amount found in the martian atmosphere. Her report will be published in Geophysical Research Letters on July 15.

Related Articles

Deuterium, a heavier form of hydrogen, combines with oxygen to make "heavy" water. In today's thin Martian atmosphere, water has a deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio five times higher than is found in water on Earth. Previous research attributed this to the escape of hydrogen from the martian atmosphere over time. Because hydrogen is lighter than deuterium, it escapes more easily, leading to the high relative level of deuterium in the atmosphere of Mars today.

Scientists had previously assumed that before the deuterium level was enhanced by the escape of hydrogen, martian water more closely resembled that on Earth, with a comparable ratio of deuterium to hydrogen. In order to reach the current value of five times higher than Earth's water, they calculated that around 90 percent of the water in the Martian atmosphere and upper crust had been lost over the planet's history.

Leshin compared the deuterium level in the atmosphere with that in a meteorite known as QUE94201, found in Antarctica in 1994 and believed to have been blasted off Mars three million years ago. Tiny water-bearing crystals in the meteorite were analyzed by Leshin on the ion microprobe instrument at the University of California at Los Angeles. These crystals contain hydrogen from the martian interior, which was not affected by atmospheric escape. They revealed a smaller percentage of deuterium than current martian atmospheric measurements.

But instead of this ancient water demonstrating the same deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio as Earth water, as had been assumed, Leshin's research shows that Mars had a deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio nearly double that of Earth before any atmospheric escape could have occurred. Leshin suggests that this could have resulted from loss of hydrogen very early in martian history as a result of extreme ultraviolet radiation from the young Sun, a mechanism different than the current escape process. Alternatively, she writes, it could imply that comets, which share the same deuterium to hydrogen ration as martian interior water, supplied most of the water found on Mars today.

Since martian water originally contained higher deuterium levels than previously thought, Leshin concludes that the martian atmosphere has lost two to three times less water through the eons in order to arrive at the isotope's current atmospheric level. That water should still exist today on Mars, she says, located within the planet's crust. In fact, evidence from this and previous research on martian meteorites supports the idea that a significant martian groundwater reservoir currently exists.

Just how much water is there on Mars? Leshin cautions that her research does not provide the answer to that question, only that these latest findings suggest that there remains up to three times more water in the martian crust than previously thought. Future missions to Mars will have to study the martian soil, both in place and by returning samples to Earth, to arrive at a meaningful estimate of the actual amount of water remaining there.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Geophysical Union. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:

American Geophysical Union. "Mars May Hold Twice As Much Water As Previously Thought." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 June 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/06/000627094127.htm>.
American Geophysical Union. (2000, June 28). Mars May Hold Twice As Much Water As Previously Thought. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/06/000627094127.htm
American Geophysical Union. "Mars May Hold Twice As Much Water As Previously Thought." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/06/000627094127.htm (accessed January 30, 2015).

Share This

More From ScienceDaily

More Space & Time News

Friday, January 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

NASA Holds Memorial to Remember Astronauts

NASA Holds Memorial to Remember Astronauts

AP (Jan. 29, 2015) NASA is remembering 17 astronauts who were killed in the line of duty and dozens more who have died since the agency&apos;s beginning. A remembrance ceremony was held Thursday at NASA&apos;s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. (Jan. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Moon Spotted During Earth Flyby

Asteroid's Moon Spotted During Earth Flyby

Rumble (Jan. 27, 2015) Scientists working with NASA&apos;s Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California discovered an unexpected moon while observing asteroid 2004 BL86 during its recent flyby past Earth. Credit to &apos;NASA JPL&apos;. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com
Water Fleas Prepare for Space Voyage

Water Fleas Prepare for Space Voyage

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 26, 2015) Scientists are preparing a group of water fleas for a unique voyage into space. The aquatic crustaceans, known as Daphnia, can be used as a miniature model for biomedical research, and their reproductive and swimming behaviour will be tested for signs of stress while on board the International Space Station. Jim Drury went to meet the team. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mars Rover Opportunity Celebrates 11-Year Anniversary

Mars Rover Opportunity Celebrates 11-Year Anniversary

Rumble (Jan. 26, 2015) Eleven years ago NASA&apos;s Opportunity rover touched down on Mars for what was only supposed to be a 90-day mission. Since then it has traveled 25.9 miles (41.7 kilometers), further than any other off-Earth surface vehicle has ever driven. Credit to &apos;NASA&apos;. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins