New Evidence Suggests That Mars Had An Ocean

Most life on Earth would not exist if it weren’t for the enormous bodies of water that cover its surface. Recent discoveries by Michael Mumma, the leading researcher of NASA’s Goddard Space Center for Astrobiology, confirmed that Mars, the Red Planet, was once as blue as the Earth itself.

After six years of sharp investigation of the planet, scientists have found new evidence that has convinced them of Mars’ ancient body of water, believed to be as big as the Atlantic Ocean, in its Northern Hemisphere. Mumma and Geronimo Villanueva, one of NASA’s planetary scientists, have estimated that 19% percent of Mars’ surface would have been covered in water, in contrast to the 17 percent of Earth’s surface covered by the Atlantic Ocean. The sea would have also pooled in the northern hemisphere, found 0.6-1.8 miles (1-3 km) below the South’s bedrock surface, and would have run at least 137 meters (roughly 450 feet) deep.

In addition, based on water samples from meteorites derived from Mars, scientists have also detected that there are two different kinds of water in the Martian surface. Ordinary water, which consists of two atoms of hydrogen and one oxygen atom (H2o), is one. The other type of water in Mars is HDO, dubbed as heavy water, whose atom of hydrogen contains a deuterium in its nucleus.

Both compounds are found on Earth’s surface in anticipated amounts. Yet, in Mars, indications of high levels of heavy water suggest that the amount of light water was somehow lost in the advent of time in the vastness of space. Based on the discovery that deuterium levels in Mars are 8x of that present on Earth, Villanueva is now sure that they can provide a “solid estimate” of the amount of water that was lost.

This new discovery has gained the attention of many, science-inclined or not, and has provided enough data to support the claim of a northern ocean in a debate that has been going on for almost four decades. Many experts, however, still believe that the ocean is hypothetical. According to Ashwin Vasavada, of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory found in Pasadena, California, the question is still debatable.

Vasavada, who is one of the Mars Curiosity rover mission’s project scientists, claimed that Curiosity has also gathered data indicating that Mars contained a substantial amount of water, though not as abundant as what Mumma and Villanueva postulate. Also missing from the mix are topographical and geological features such as shorelines and sea cliffs that would suggest water.