The red planet, Mars, once bled with an exorbitant amount of water. Rivers, lakes, and streams that existed on the surface of Mars billions of years ago left evidence that is still visible.
As a result, the reason why all the water dried up still messes with researchers’ brains. And another factor adding its weight is that the average temperature in today’s time, on the red planet, hovers around -60 degrees Celsius. A recent research, led by University of Chicago scientists, has a set of new and quite mysterious reasons for all the water on Mars drying up.
It all started in 1972 when the Mariner 9 mission by NASA captured landscapes left behind by rivers. The reason why these riverbeds were intact, even after so many millenniums, was that Mars does not have tectonic plates. Since there were no tectonic plates, there was no shift to dust off the evidence.
The new study published in Science Advances suggests that the loss of water on Mars was due to an ingredient in the planet’s atmosphere, which kept Mars warm enough for losing out on all the water. However, the ingredient is still unknown.
At first, the researchers thought of greenhouse gases playing their role. “Carbon Dioxide is a strong greenhouse gas, so it was really the leading candidate to explain the drying out of Mars. But these results suggest it is not so simple,” said Edwin Kite, a geophysical scientist at the University of Chicago, in a statement.
Kite and his associates ran multiple combinations, tampering with the simulations by changing the proportion of various factors that may have contributed to converting a planet that was once habitable to inhabitable. The analysis revealed that Carbon Dioxide did not have any role to play in this conversion.
Another theory that tries to explain the phenomenon suggests that an element may have helped in Mars’ atmosphere forming a thin, icy, translucent air that may have trapped enough heat on the planet for the water to turn into steam. “We do not know what this factor is, but we need a lot of it to have existed to explain the results,” Kite said. Researchers are now after this very abundant “factor” that may have dried all the water out.