Massive hidden water deposit discovered on Mars Kids News Article

An artist’s illustration of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) which recently discovered water beneath the surface of Mars. (ESA)

Researchers have long suspected that Mars once housed many rivers, lakes and maybe even oceans. But while they could detect ice, and some salt lakes, in the polar regions of the planet, finding water in other regions has proven elusive. Now scientists have finally found evidence a lot of water tank a few meters below the surface of the Red Planet’s Valles Marineris canyon system.

Located along the equator of Mars, the Valles Marineris is one of the largest canyons in the solar system. The massive tectonic chasm measures over 2,500 miles (4,023 kilometers) long and 5 miles (8 km) deep. NASA estimates that if the Valles Marineris were on Earth, it would be stretch through continental United States – from New York to California.

The TGO found a large amount of hydrogen in the Valles Marineris canyon system. (ESA)

“We found that a central part of Valles Marineris was filled with water – much more water than expected,” said study co-author Alexey Malakhov, a scientist at the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “It looks a lot like Earth’s permafrost regions where water ice permanently persists under dry soil due to constant low temperatures.”

The discovery was made using data collected by the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), which has been circling the Red Planet since 2018. TGO, a collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), is designed to detect the presence of gases such as methane and water vapor in the Martian atmosphere. Researchers say that between May 2018 and February 2021, the orbiter’s Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector (FREND) found an unusually high amount of hydrogen – a measure of water contents – in the ‘

The water was discovered in the Candor Chasma valley of the Valles Marineris canyon system. (ESA)

The scientists, who revealed their conclusions in a press release of December 15, 2021, think water is in the form of ice. If true, this could represent up to 40% of the area’s near-surface material. However, FREND could also be detect water chemically bound to minerals in the ground. The team plans to analyze more data to determine the shape of water. Whatever the outcome, they believe the discovery will be a game-changer for potential human missions on the red planet.

“Learning more about how and where water exists on Mars today is essential to understand what happened to Mars once-abundant water, and helps our search for livable environments, possible signs of past life and organic materials from the early days of Mars,” says ESA TGO project scientist Colin Wilson.

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