The ExoMars probe has detected large amounts of water under the surface of Mars in the Valles Marineris Valley System. The region rich in H2O covers the area of the Netherlands.
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Created by ESA and Roskosmos, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has made a major discovery on the Red Planet. In the valley-rich Valles region, Marineris found a huge amount of water.
So far the water is on Mars They are mainly found in polar regions as ice. There is no surface near the equator due to excessively high temperatures. Probes found only small amounts of ice associated with dust grains in the soil or combined with minerals.
Aboard the ExoMars, the FREND (Fine Epithelial Neutron Detector) instrument peered a meter below the surface of the soil. – FREND has revealed an area with unusually large amounts of hydrogen in the Valles Marineris enormous valley system. Assuming there is hydrogen in the water molecules, by up to 40 percent. The substance in this area appears to be water, says Igor Mitrofanov of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
– Thanks to the Trace Gas Orbiter, we can look at a depth of one meter below the surface of the planet and see what is happening underneath. First of all, we can identify water-rich oases, which previously used tools were not able to record – the study’s lead author admits
The area that is rich in H2O is roughly the size of the Netherlands (about 41.5 thousand square kilometers).
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FREND’s unique capabilities
The unique capabilities of the FREND instrument come from the fact that it responds to neutrons rather than light. Scientists explain that these particles are emitted when cosmic rays hit the surface of Mars. Dry soil emits more neutrons than rich soil water. – The unique monitoring technology available thanks to FREND allows much higher spatial resolution than previous measurements of this type. Thanks to this, we can see the signal of water that was imperceptible earlier – confirms Alexei Malakhov, one of the authors of the discovery.
– We found that the central part of Valles Marineris is full of water – much more than we expected. Similar to permafrost regions on Earth, the researcher says, ice remains below the surface all the time due to persistent low temperatures.
The water present may be in the form of ice or be chemically related to minerals. However, other observations indicate that the rocks at this point have a poor association with water, so it is possible that the probe detected ice.
This discovery may be surprising, because at this latitude, the ice should evaporate as well as the water associated with the rocks. So there must be another factor at this point that is keeping the water in place, or somehow replenishing it. “This result is an exciting first step, but we need more observations to know what kind of water we’re dealing with,” says ESA’s Hakan.
This discovery is of great importance in that future missions are carefully planned to land at low latitudes. Because although the Mars Express probe discovered traces of hidden water also in the middle latitudes and traces of a deep reservoir in the Antarctic, due to the great depth (up to several kilometers), it will be difficult to use it. Meanwhile, the shallow waters found in Valles Marineris make the area more attractive for future exploration. It also allows you to better understand the planet’s past and choose the best places to search, for example, to search for traces of life – note the experts.
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