The discovery of large amounts of water under the largest valley in the solar system

There should be no water on Mars at the equator, and very little water below that surface. However, Exomars mission instruments say the opposite in certain parts of the famous giant valley of the red planet: JM Marineris.

As we know, the question of the presence of water on Mars, now or in the past, is also important forexobiology of colonizing the red planet. We are also trying to determine where we are at the present time deposit Ice and water if possible liquid To send settlers and exobiologists there. In the latter case, perhaps in areas still volcanically active Hence the sources the heat By keeping water in a liquid state, we can think that we will have a better chance of discovering living things on Mars.

What is certain is that the presence of ice on Mars is related to temperatures and pressures, so we usually do not expect to find it atequator Because it’s generally hot there. Ice will harden to the surface quickly. But it can be located in the depth. So we learn with a certain surprise via Article published in the newspaper Icarus That there must be large amounts of water, perhaps in the form of ice, but in fact below the surface of the famous Martian Grand Canyon: JM Marineris.

Layers made up of 40% water?

This is the conclusion reached by a team of planetary scientists studying data through the joint European Space Agency (ESA) and Roscomos mission, namely ExoMars orbital gas tracking. This data is provided more accurately by the Frend tool (High precision skin neutron detection) allowing content to be specified in . format hydrogen, and therefore in the water, from the surface layers of Mars that are about one meter thick.

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Igor Mitrofanov, of the Institute of Space Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, lead author of the new study and principal investigator of the neutron detector, explains in a press release fromwho – which qu ‘« With TGO, we can search a meter deep below dusty layers and see what’s really going on beneath the surface of Mars – and most importantly, identify water-rich “oases” that couldn’t be detected with previous tools He adds that ” Frend has detected an area with an unusually high amount of hydrogen in the massive valley system JM Marineris : Assuming that the hydrogen we see is bound to water molecules, up to 40% of Theme Near the surface in this area appears to be water ».

His Russian colleague and co-author Alexei Malakhov, also from the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, explains: Frend .’s unique monitoring technology provides Precision My spatial is much higher than previous measurements of this type, which now allows us to see structures with water that had not been observed before. We decided that a central part of Valles Marineris was full of water – much more than we expected. Much like regions permafrost Land, where water ice is permanently present under dry soil due to constant low temperatures. »

Water that blocks the flow of cosmic neutrons

We also learned in the press release that the water-rich area is roughly the size of the Netherlands and spans deep valleys Kandor Chasma.

But how can we detect the presence of water with a flow of neutrons in addition to the presence of an instrument in orbiting ?

As shown in the above series of graphs, the bombing of cosmic rays in reactionepisode neutrons atoms From the surface of Mars, for example under the crater of the Martian volcano.

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However, hydrogen atoms act as a kind of filter for the influx of neutrons from the upper layers of the Martian surface caused by this cosmic rays. Remarkably, it is possible to use measurements of the properties of this flow, and more precisely its decrease in intensity, to infer not only the presence of a layer of ice or organic molecules rich in hydrogen atoms, but also the thickness of these layers.

The presence of water appears to be learned, but even if researchers believe that water is in the form of ice, it is possible that it may also be, partially or completely, in the form of ice. metal moist.

In any case, it is a little paradoxical because this water is too close to the surface, where it cannot exist, indicating the mechanisms that remain to be elucidated in order to understand its existence. Thus the layer can be continually replenished with water.

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