The MAVEN spacecraft has spent a year studying the Red Planet’s atmosphere. During this time, the probe captured images of water escaping Mars and dispersing into space. According to the collected data, the water that is lost in the process does not go out without a bang.
The Mars Atmosphere Volatile Evolution probe has been sending data about Mars’ atmosphere for over a year. Its purpose is to collected as much information on the Red Planet as it can so that researchers can prepare for every possible scenario that could arise during the Mars mission.
How is Water Escaping Mars?
MAVEN uses a unique method to study the atmospheric changes of the Red Planet. The spacecraft focuses on hydrogen that escapes the planet. It seems that the gas is eliminated in larger amounts when the planet gets closer to the Sun. When the planet is at its most distant point from the sun, the amount of released hydrogen is exponentially smaller.
Due to the connection to the Sun, the hydrogen release rates vary, the scientists being unable to predict the exact quantity of the gas that will be lost at a given point.
Ali Rahmati, a member of the MAVEN team at Berkeley University, declared that the information collected by the spacecraft is crucial in establishing the total quantity of water that was lost over the years.
Where Is the Water Coming From?
The Martian water in question originated from the lower atmosphere of the planet. When the heat of the sun comes in direct contact with this layer, the oxygen molecules are separated from the hydrogen ones, leading to water escaping the Martian atmosphere.
Initially, the scientists believed that the planet lost a constant volume of water. Recent observations proved this theory wrong, showing that the water loss is strongly connected with the Sun’s proximity. Additional data collected from both the ESA’s Mars Express and NASA’s Hubble Telescope indicate that the amount of lost water fluctuates.
Researchers stated that more measurements and observations are needed in order to elaborate a theory. For the moment, scientists have reasons to believe that the Sun’s proximity is just a part of the explanation.
MAVEN will continue to collect information that will prepare NASA’s teams for the upcoming Mars mission.
Image source: Wikipedia