Just yesterday, scientists and NASA have finally confirmed that there is liquid water flowing on the red planet. In the last couple of years, a lot has changed when it comes to Mars, we previously believed that Mars was a dry and inhospitable planet where water in liquid form couldn’t exist.
Now we know that Mars has liquid Water, huge levels of Methane and not so long ago, the red planet had a gigantic ocean covering most of its surface.
Liquid water on Mars
NASA has finally announced that they have found the strongest evidence yet confirming the existence of liquid water on Mars and everyone is extremely excited since this discovery could mean that Mars could support at least simple life forms. NASA calls is ‘spectral evidence,’ lines in four different places on the surface of Mars, which confirm researcher’s hypothesis of the existence of water in liquid state on the red planet.
“There is liquid water today on the surface of Mars,” Michael Meyer, the lead scientist on Nasa’s Mars exploration program, told the Guardian. “Because of this, we suspect that it is at least possible to have a habitable environment today.”
Methane on Mars
One of its scientific instruments detected a source of methane that appears and disappears without explanation. So where is the issue? Well it isn’t an issue exactly is just something no one knows what it is, confusing?
On Earth, 90% of all methane in the atmosphere is produced by living organisms. Curiosity captured traces of methane on the Red Planet and scientists believe this could point to the presence of life on the red planet, at this precise moment, although there are other possible explanations. For now there is only one thing clear, something is causing methane levels to multiply up to ten times and then back down drastically.
Does this mean Mars has life? Well it could point toward that possibility if you compare the methane levels on Earth and what causes them here, then yeah, it’s quite possible. Now add to all of the methane conspiracy the fact that Mars actually had liquid water in the past? Well the chances are actually pretty high that there is something that is producing methane spikes on Mars, and that something could in fact be a living organism.
“You need to know a lot more about what’s going on right at the source,” said Michael New, an astrobiologist at NASA’s headquarters in Washington DC. “You need to know the context. It’s very hard to look at methane alone and say it came from life.”
The Oceans of Ancient Mars
All signs suggest that Mars had a lot of water in the past, the only thing is that scientists had no evidence of exactly how much liquid water the red planet had. A new study has confirmed that Mars had a huge ocean. It is likely that much of the northern hemisphere was covered with water according to the work of an international team of scientists from the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the WM Keck Observatory and NASA’s infrared Telescope’s in Hawaii.
“Our study provides a solid estimate of how much water Mars once had, by determining how much later was lost to space,” said Geronimo Villanueva, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and lead author of the paper.
To calculate the amount of liquid water that Mars once had, researchers have spent six years making a map of the amount of heavy water in the current atmosphere of Mars. Heavy water or HDO is a natural compound that occurs over time when hydrogen deuterium gives way to a water molecule (H2O). Heavy water evaporates much harder. By measuring the amount of this compound relative to the water molecules in the current atmosphere of Mars, researchers have been able to determine the amount of water that Mars has lost due to evaporation into space.
Methane and water… evidence of life?
We can say, like never before, it is very likely that Mars could sustain life. The not-so-harsh Red planet has proven to be full of surprises and many people believe that it is just a matter of time before scientists confirm that Mars has life.