Whoa, Mars might have as much water underground as Earth does


If you’re planning on helping to colonize Mars, you’ll be thrilled to hear that a recent analysis of Martian meteorites indicates that there may be more water on Mars than we previously thought — a lot more. Scientists now think that the amount of water that’s underground on Mars could rival that of Earth. The discovery has rekindled speculations about the red planet’s ability to sustain life — including, potentially, that of human visitors.

The research was led by former Carnegie postdoctoral scientist Francis McCubbin, who’s now at the University of New Mexico, and the analysis itself was performed by Carnegie Institution investigator Erik Hauri and team. Their findings are to appear in the journal, Geology.

To reach this conclusion, the scientists studied what are called shergottite meteorites. These are relatively young objects that originated through the partial thawing of the Martian mantle, which is the layer immediately under the crust. This melting process resulted in its crystallization in the shallow subsurface and on the surface itself. These meteorites landed on earth about 2.5 million years ago, likely after an asteroid smashed into Mars. These ancient objects are a boon to “meteorite geochemists”, who study them in order to get a better understanding of Mars’s geological processes.

Written By: io9
continue to source article at io9.com


  1. “…water will be required for humans and colonists…”
    Fine tune and pack those dowsing rods :p

  2. There have been signs of water on Mars before.  There were probably lakes or seas there millions of years ago, but they have long been frozen solid and covered by dust from the seasonal atmospheric dust storms.  Even CO2 is solid snow at the poles in winter!  Mars is a very cold planet.

  3. I read that it occasionally gets above the freezing point of water at its equator. Also that Martian air, with all that dust and dust storms that can cover the entire planet, contains  0.03% of water vapour and even this small amount can condense out into frost on the surface. 

  4. I’m pretty impressed but maybe the scientists are a bit optimistic about having determined the hydrated mineral content of a number of meteorites. Given that they are the same age and their notion that they were the result of a meteorite impact on mars some 2.5 milion years ago, I think it’s likely these meteorites originate from the same region on mars and thus can’t be held as an average for the martian crust. They might have been part of a lake or river bed e.g..

    Never the less, it would be interresting to find that much water. Not all that surprising though. Mars and the Earth are formed from the same cloud of material (assuming that theory of planetary formation is correct), and were subsequently victim of the same bombardment of comets. True, on the face of it Mars is very different and has lost a lot of gasses and vapors – including water – but hydrated rocks have a tendency to hold on to water unless they are heated – like the formation of anhydrite from gypsum, you can try this in your own oven. Anhydrite is the white stuff you buy in a hobby shop and which most people call gypsum. It’s not. It becomes gypsum when you hydrate it – and Mars being a lot colder than Earth might have retained that water in it’s rocks.

    Interesting stuff isn’t it?

  5. Mee Peestevone
    I read that it occasionally gets above the freezing point of water at its equator.

    We will have to wait for info on temperatures of any liquid water.  As I understand it, the signs of liquid water have been on sun facing slopes, and may well have been concentrated solutions which would act like antifreeze.  The very low atmospheric pressure would mean water also boils at a much lower temperature than on Earth.

    There is water ice in the CO2 snow at the poles.  Indeed it is the seasonal sublimation of the polar CO2 which generates the dust carrying winds from one hemisphere to the other.

    There is a published study on a possible manned science base at the Martian North Pole: (Pictured below)

    Project Boreas – A Station for the Martian Geographic North Pole

    Continuing in the long line of visionary BIS projects, Project Boreas summarises the three year deliberations of a group of BIS members and non-members on the design of a station for the Martian Geographic North Pole. The volume describes the base design, science and exploration objectives, communications, history of Mars polar studies, human factors studies, life support and many other factors neccesary for the explorers to spend nearly two Martian years at the Martian pole.



  6. Alan4discussion: There were probably lakes or seas there millions of years ago…
    And not just lakes or seas.  It is very likely that Mars once had flowing water (i.e. rivers) on its surface as well. See this image from NASA, for instance, or see this older image (near the bottom of the page).

  7. Mars certainly rekindles my interest in the solar system and beyond. I remember the first two lunar landings and watched the second one from my classroom in elementary school; exciting times… and more to come.
    Thanks for the links.

  8.   HardNosedSkeptic

     And not just lakes or seas.  It is very likely that Mars once had flowing water (i.e. rivers) on its surface as well.

    It may have had rivers, or there may have been seasonal flows with seasonal lakes, as in some desserts on Earth.  Earth also has flash floods making delta fans, from volcanic activity melting glaciers (eg in Iceland)

    It would appear that where orbiting bodies have an atmosphere and a cycle of  “rain”, erosion of valleys and sedimentation are the norm, as shown on  Cassini-Titan images. (Rivers of methane in this case)

    http://web.mit.edu/press/2012/… –  For example, plate tectonics, erupting volcanoes, advancing glaciers and river networks have all reshaped Earth’s surface over billions of years. On Titan, similar processes — tectonic upheaval, icy lava eruptions, erosion and sedimentation by rivers — may be at work.

    Images from the Cassini mission show river networks draining into lakes in Titan’s north polar region.
    Image: NASA/JPL/USGS

  9. Water is, obviously, an extremely valuable resource.
    Eventually there will be arguments/fights over it.
    Then what…?  

Leave a Reply