Mars Canyon

‘Significant Amounts of Water’ Found on Mars

Scientists have announced that “significant amounts of water” has been discovered on Mars’ version of the Grand Canyon, just beneath the surface.

Water found beneath Mars’ massive version of a Grand Canyon

The planet Mars has its own version of the Grand Canyon, called Valles Marineris, and it dwarfs Earth’s by comparison, one of our planet’s seven natural wonders of the world. Mars’ Grand Canyon is ten times longer, five times deeper and twenty times wider than the one in Arizona, CNN reported.

The European Space Agency (ESA), in a press release, announced: “The ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has spotted significant amounts of water at the heart of Mars’ dramatic canyon system, Valles Marineris.”

The discovery was made by the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), launched in 2016 as a joint mission between the European Space Agency and Roscosmos. ExoMars includes both TGO, which launched in 2016, and the Rosalind Franklin rover due to launch to Mars next year, reported.

The observations were collected by the orbiter between May 2018 to February 2021. The findings were published in the journal Icarus.

The orbiter used its Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector (FREND) instrument and detecting the water. The instrument was designed to survey the Red Planet’s landscape and map the presence and concentration of hydrogen hiding in Mars’ soil, Interesting Engineering reported.

“With TGO we can look down to one metre below this dusty layer and see what’s really going on below Mars’ surface – and, crucially, locate water-rich ‘oases’ that couldn’t be detected with previous instruments,” said Igor Mitrofanov, lead investigator of the Russian Academy of Science’s Space Research Institute and principal investigator of the FREND (Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector) neutron telescope, in an ESA press release.

How much water is on Mars and where is it?

Most of the water present on Mars is located in the planet’s polar regions and remains frozen as water ice. Valles Marineris is just south of the Red Planet’s equator, where temperatures aren’t typically cold enough for water ice to remain.

The water the Trace Gas Orbiter found in the Valles Marineris is just below the surface.

“We found a central part of Valles Marineris to be packed full of water — far more water than we expected,” said Alexey Malakhov, a senior scientist at the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and co-author of the new paper, in an ESA statement. “This is very much like Earth’s permafrost regions, where water ice permanently persists under dry soil because of the constant low temperatures.”

“FREND revealed an area with an unusually large amount of hydrogen in the colossal Valles Marineris canyon system,” Mitrofanov said in the press release. “Assuming the hydrogen we see is bound into water molecules, as much as 40% of the near-surface material in this region appears to be water.”