Mars: The Surprising Discovery Under the Red Planet’s “Grand Canyon”

Mars: The Surprising Discovery Under the Red Planet's "Grand Canyon"
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A space probe finds something sensational beneath the “Grand Canyon” of Mars. The professional world could hardly believe it.

Frankfurt – Mars has water mainly at the poles, which is already known. But now researchers have made a new discovery on the Red Planet: massive amounts of water in an area called Valles Marineris (Mariner Valleys).

It is a massive rift system that extends up to 4000 km in length and 700 km in width and has valleys up to 7000 m deep. The system, also known as the “Grand Canyon” of Mars, is the focus of the new discovery.

To find water in the “Grand Canyon” on Mars, researchers evaluated data from the European-Russian “Trace Gas Orbiter” (TGO), which has been orbiting the Red Planet since October 2016. The orbiter carries the FREND (Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector) instrument, which can see up to a meter below the surface of Mars and detect hydrogen – a component of water.

Asa explores Mars with, among other things, the Trace Gas Orbiter. (symbol image)

© imago / UIG

Look beneath the surface of Mars: track “water-rich oceans”

Igor Mitrofanov of the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences explains, “With TGO we can see what’s really going on beneath the surface of Mars and we can detect the water-rich ‘dew’ that was detected by previous instruments.” Couldn’t find it.” is the lead author of a new study describing the discovery of water on Mars in Moscow and Expert magazine Icarus. published in Would like

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With the help of the FREND instrument, the researchers were able to discover a region “with an unusually high proportion of hydrogen” in the Wallace Marineris Canyon system, Mitrofanov reports in a communication to the European Space Organization (ESA).

Wallace Marineris Rift Valley System on Mars
Post At the equator
Tall 4000 kms
Detailed 700 kms. So far
depth up to 7000 meters

Large amount of water discovered in “Grand Canyon of Mars”

“Assuming that the hydrogen we see is bound up in water molecules, forty percent of the near-surface material in this region appears to be water,” the researcher summarizes the discovery on Mars. The area in which scientists suspect the water is about the size of the Netherlands and extends into the deep valleys of the region called Candor Chaos.

To search for water on Mars, Mitrofanov and other scientists evaluated observations from May 2018 to February 2021. The FREND instrument observed neutrons, not light. “Neutrons are created when high-energy particles known as galactic cosmic rays collide with Mars,” explains co-author Alexey Malakhov. Dry soil emits more neutrons than moist soil, so it was possible to find out how much water was in the soil. Since FREND enables better spatial resolution than other instruments, it is now possible to discover water that was previously unnoticed.

Water on Mars: Researchers Evaluate Data from a European Mars Orbiter

“We found that a central part of Valles Marineris is filled with water – much more water than we expected,” Malakhov emphasized, comparing the finding with Earth: “This is similar to permafrost regions on Earth where water ice There is a persistently low temperature beneath dry soil.” Water can exist as ice or as water that is chemically bound to other minerals in the soil. “Overall, we think that this water More exists in the form of ice,” says Malakhov, summarizing the research team’s findings.

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In the region of Mars where the researchers found water, water ice usually evaporates due to temperature and pressure conditions; The same applies to chemically bound water: just the right combination of pressure, temperature, and hydration doesn’t cause the minerals on Mars to be lost to water. This suggests that a particular mixture of conditions must have occurred in Valles Marineris to retain water or to refill it, according to the Asa Declaration.

Wallace Marineris on Mars. Researchers have discovered a large reservoir of water there.


Mars Research: “An Incredible First Step”

Study co-author and Essa employee Hakan Svedheim is already looking to the future: “This discovery is an incredible first step, but we need more observations to know for sure what form water exists in. ” The discovery, however, bolsters the capabilities of the “Trace Gas Orbiter” instruments, which show “a large, not very deep and easily accessible water reservoir in this region of Mars”.

The “Trace Gas Orbiter”, which has been orbiting Mars since 2016, is the first part of the European-Russian ExoMars programme. The second part is to leave for the Red Planet in 2022: the European rover “Rosalind Franklin” is sitting on the Russian platform “Kazachok” and is about to find out if there was ever life on Mars.

He is not alone with this task: NASA’s rovers “Curiosity” and “Perseverance” also have this task. The latest Mars rover “Perseverance” has caused quite a stir lately: first it solved “one of the biggest puzzles” on Mars, then it answered a question about Mars that researchers have been desperate for until now Huh. (tab)

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Header List Image: © Imago / UIG

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