Friday, 22 June 2012

Scientists find extensive water beneath the Martian surface

A new study leads researchers to conclude that there is an extensive amount of water in the interior of Mars–results vastly different from previous estimates.

Mars (credit: NASA/JPL)

This study, led by University of New Mexico scientist Francis McCubbin, analyzed Martian meteorites that originated from Mars’s mantle. Carnegie Institution investigator Erik Hauri explains:
We analyzed two meteorites that had very different processing histories. One had undergone considerable mixing with other elements during its formation, while the other had not. We analyzed the water content of the mineral apatite and found there was little difference between the two even though the chemistry of trace elements was markedly different. The results suggest that water was incorporated during the formation of Mars and that the planet was able to store water in its interior during the planet’s differentiation.
The research suggests that the volume of water within the Martian mantle is similar to the volume of water in Earth’s upper mantle. According to, “the Martian mantle source from which the rocks were derived contained between 70 and 300 parts per million (ppm) water,” whereas Earth’s upper mantle “contains approximately 50-300 ppm water.” Hauri explains that there has been substantial evidence for the presence of liquid water on Mars’s surface, “so it’s been puzzling why previous estimates for the planet’s interior have been so dry. This new research makes sense and suggests that volcanoes may have been the primary vehicle for getting water to the surface.”
According to, this new data raises “the possibility that Mars could have sustained life.”
The team’s research is published in the journal Geology.