A team of scientists at NASA says that a vast ocean was once existent on Mars. As per the new study, published in the journal Science, about four billion years ago, the Red Planet had a giant body of water which covered a large portion of Martian surface. The size of the ocean, as per the estimates, was larger than the Arctic Ocean of Earth. Scientists suggest that the amount of water present on Mars four billion years ago was enough to cover the entire surface of the planet in a liquid layer, having a depth of about 140 meters. However, the researchers have revealed that the water was probably pooled to form a huge ocean, covering almost half of the Mars’s northern hemisphere. At some points, the depth was greater than 1.6 kilometers.
The researchers reached the conclusion by analyzing two forms of water found in the Martian atmosphere, both differing slightly from one another. In the two forms of water one was “regular water” with two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, and another one was “heavy water” in which one hydrogen atom is replaced by a heavier form known as deuterium, forming HDO. The ratio of two forms of water was measured by the research group to figure out their comparative abundance in the planet’s atmosphere. For the study the Keck Observatory’s 10-meter Keck II telescope, NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility, and ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile were used.
Geronimo Villanueva, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and lead author of the new paper, stated “Our study provides a solid estimate of how much water Mars once had, by determining how much water was lost to space. With this work, we can better understand the history of water on Mars.” Analysis of the Martian surface suggests that the water was possibly present in the Mars’ Northern Plains as the region has low-lying ground. The ancient ocean there probably covered 19 percent of the planet’s surface.