Mars is popularly known as The Red Planet, a barren landscape that’s devoid of the water needed to support complex life-forms. Now, a new study from researchers at Oxford University claims that Mars once had water on its planetary surface but it was sucked into its interior by “sponge-like” rocks.
During the study, scientists discovered that the basalt rock deposits on Mars have higher absorption capabilities than their counterparts on Earth. These Martian rocks suck in 25 percent more water which would have decimated any living organisms on the Red Planet’s surface.
According to The Daily Mail, the scientific consensus is that Mars lost all of its water because of the breakdown of its magnetic field. But this phenomenon would only account for the disappearance of 87 percent of the planet’s water supply. The scientists behind this new study believe they’ve solved the mystery of why so much more of Mars’ water vanished.
The basalt mineral deposits on Mars were created by volcanic activity. The study posits that the water came into contact with lava to develop extremely porous rocks that suctioned water from the surface.
The formation of these rocks and the resultant loss of water meant that any simple life-forms living on the planet’s surface were done for. Without water, there was no hope for their survival or for their evolution into more complex organisms.
According to the researchers, this devastating drying effect didn’t happen on Earth because our planetary temperature is different and we benefit from more iron in our silicate mantle. Today, the Earth’s plate tectonic system also helps us to circumvent the extreme drop in surface water levels that Mars experienced.
The existence of water on Mars is a source of heated debate among experts. As Space.com notes, proof that there was once water on Mars emerged in the year 2000 when gullies were observed on the planet’s surface. These land formations hinted that surface water must have been present at some point in time to create them.
Whether there’s still any surface water on Mars is also a hot topic. According to Space.com, The European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft has taken pictures of ice sheets of ice at the base of craters. This indicates that liquid water can accumulate given the right environmental conditions. This pooling effect was also witnessed by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Human colonization of Mars is the dream of some Earthling billionaires like SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk. But the lack of available water makes Mars seem completely inhospitable to human life. Only time will tell whether more scientific developments in this field will make The Red Planet more suitable for human habitation.
The findings from the study have been published in the journal, Nature.