Mars has moved to the forefront of culture and science over the years. Whether it is Elon Musk's efforts to get us there, or Matt Damon's blockbuster film "The Martian", the world is fascinated by the big red planet. NASA even sent up a twitter friendly, Wall-e looking rover to study the planet. Most of the time questions about the mysterious red planet can be boiled down to, is, or was there, life on Mars? This question has come up time and time again and as the years move on and we collect more data from the planet, it looks like we could have an answer soon.
One of the biggest indications of life may be the existence of water on the planet. Though there are no current signs of water on the planet right now, scientist's most recent studies, indicate that water may have existed on the planet.
Where Did the Water Go?
The question of what exactly happened to the water that existed on Mars has plagued scientists since the planet's discovery. There are countless signs that water existed on the planet. Today scientists are saying that perhaps all the water did not disappear, and it could be very much still part of the Martian environment. Sort of.
A group of scientists from the prestigious Oxford University has hypothesized that the water on the red planet is not all gone and that the water has just reacted to the surrounding Martian rocks causing it to be absorbed into the mantle of the planet. But, it is far more complicated than that. Dr. Jon Wade of Oxford recently published his theories in the Nature Journal. Wade hypothesizes, "Although some of the water on Mars was lost to space via photolysis following the collapse of the planet’s magnetic field the widespread serpentinization of Martian crust suggests that metamorphic hydration reactions played a critical part in the sequestration of the crust. "
Basically, unlike Earth, Mars has an extremely weak magnetic field, if any at all. Without a strong magnetic field, the planet is not protected from ionizing radiation. This paired with the red planet's low gravity would have caused the breaking up of water molecules on the planet surface.
Jon takes this theory a step further by arguing that the planet's surface is also part of the disappearance of the water. "People have thought about this question for a long time, but never tested the theory of the water being absorbed as a result of simple rock reactions. There are pockets of evidence that together, leads us to believe that a different reaction is needed to oxidize the Martian mantle", says Jon.The lava, basalt surface, which is very different from our Earth, would be able to hold 25 percent more water than any earth equivalents. These saturated rocks would be absorbed into the planet's mantle.
If Wade and his team are right it could point to more issues down the road to colonizing Mars or finding any life on the planet. The debate of life and Mars colonization continues.