Scientists Find Direct Evidence of Surfacing Martian Groundwater

There’s liquid water on Mars. In 2018, scientists in collaboration with the Italian Space Agency discovered the presence of a massive, deep water lake on Mars, located under the planet’s south polar ice caps.

Now, a new study by scientists at USC Arid Climate and Water Research Center (AWARE) suggests Martian groundwater is still active on the red planet, and breaks free onto the surface, creating streams in some of Mars’ equatorial areas.

Furthermore, scientists have shown that groundwater exists in a much broader geographical area on Mars than just the planet’s poles.

Image Credit: NASA.
Image Credit: NASA.

They’ve also determined that there is an active groundwater system, located around 740 meters below the surface where liquid water cracks through the Martian soil, and surfaces.

Scientists analyzed the characteristics of Mars Recurrent Slope Linea which are akin to dried, short streams of water that appear on some crater walls on Mars.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.

Previous studies had proposed that these features were directly connected with surface water close or subsurface water flow.

But the new study proposes a different theory.

“We suggest that this may not be true. We propose an alternative hypothesis that they originate from a deep pressurized groundwater source which comes to the surface moving upward along ground cracks,” said Essam Heggy, one of the co-authors of the study.

“The experience we gained from our research in desert hydrology was the cornerstone in reaching this conclusion. We have seen the same mechanisms in the North African Sahara and in the Arabian Peninsula, and it helped us explore the same mechanism on Mars,” said Abotalib Z. Abotalib, the paper’s first author.

Scientists have proposed that fractures located within some of the Martian craters make it possible for water springs to rise up to the surface, as a result of accumulated pressure deep beneath the surface.

The researcher paper, which has recently been published in the journal Nature Geoscience indicates that Martian groundwater may be located deeper than previously thought, in the areas it was observed.

“Groundwater is strong evidence for the past similarity between Mars and Earth–it suggests they have a similar evolution, to some extent,” explained experts.

“Understanding how groundwater has formed on Mars, where it is today and how it is moving helps us constrain ambiguities on the evolution of climatic conditions on Mars for the last three billion years and how these conditions formed this groundwater system.”

“It helps us to understand the similarities to our own planet and if we are going through the same climate evolution and the same path that Mars is going. Understanding Mars’ evolution is crucial for understanding our own Earth’s long-term evolution and groundwater is a key element in this process.”

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