In the bid to become an interplanetary species, the human race has been striving to find means of living beyond Earth. Scientists had earlier pointed at the possibility of life on Mars. However, sustenance on the Red Planet implies knowing details about its history and present. The planet that had an abundance of water and flowing rivers at one point is now drying up sooner than expected. Here’s why
According to a study published in the journal Science Advances, certain unusual events have happened in Mars’ ancient past that may be the cause of its water loss. The study states that the planet’s loss of water was led by a layer of thin, icy clouds high in its atmosphere which worked like translucent greenhouse glass, trapping heat and warming the planet.
The team which has worked upon the study stated that earlier the climate on Mars was warm and wet, it became cold and wet later.
For further examination of Mars’ history and atmosphere, the team studied the tracks of Martian rivers.
As mentioned by Edwin Kite, the geophysical scientist at the University of Chicago, several people have put forth various ideas, but they aren’t sure about what is causing such a dramatic change upon the climate.
Earlier, scientists estimated that Mars was drying up due to the loss of carbon dioxide from its atmosphere.
Notably, Mars doesn’t have moving tectonic plates and hence the ancient river tracks remain in place. Due to this, the team from the University of Chicago, Smithsonian Institution, JPL, and Cal Tech were able to make a better analysis out of the thousands of satellite-clicked pictures.
A combination of pictures taken during different climate conditions led the team to draw results. This led researchers to find that the fluctuations in carbon dioxide’s amount wasn’t the main cause behind the drying planet. As per Kite, “Carbon dioxide is a strong greenhouse gas, so it really was the leading candidate to explain the drying out of Mars. But these results suggest it’s not so simple”.
Meanwhile, the other scientists suggest that the release of hydrogen from the planet’s interior and its subsequent interaction with atmospheric carbon dioxide could explain the planet’s warming temperatures.
“We don’t know what this factor is, but we need a lot of it to have existed to explain the results,” Kite added.