Billions of years ago there was not only one watery planet in our solar system but (at least) two of them. Scientists have proven that the probability that Mars have had oceans and rivers riddling its surface billion years ago is undeniably high. However, evolution throughout time was not as life-friendly on Mars as it was in the case of the Earth.
Mars lost its magnetic field, and that caused drastic and violent changes to the Martian environment, events that led it to be the cold and dry planet it is today. One aspect that is extremely helpful when it comes to deciphering the history of life on Earth is the enormous amount of fossils trapped up in limestone. This type of rock forms through the process of CO2 soaking up in the ocean, combining with different minerals found in the water and, at last, cementing on the oceans floor.
Thus, it is believed by the specialists that most of the ancient CO2 found in our atmosphere went through this process of solidifying on the oceans floor. Is there enough evidence to believe water existed on Mars?
What went different on Mars and Earth?
There are plenty of reasons and evidence that have led scientists to believe that water in its liquid form existed on Mars, from seasonal ice that can be found at poles as well as in different specific areas of the planet, to hematite spheres that were discovered by robots, with particularities that inevitably lead to the conclusion that they were once flooded with water.
Considering the similarities that the two planets, Mars and Earth, shared billions of years ago, especially when talking to the CO2-rich atmosphere both had at that point, one can draw the conclusions that, as on our planet where carbon dioxide was deposited on the bottom of the oceans, should Mars have had similar atmosphere, the same phenomenon should have happened on Martian grounds too.
However, this was not the case since studies conducted through robots show very little evidence of CO2 being deposited on the Martian surface, way less than expected. This was extremely challenging to figure out by the specialists.
About 20 years ago, a new piece was added to this puzzle through the discovery of sulfur-rich minerals. This discovery drastically impacted the theories existent at that point and led specialists to a new hypothesis. It is now believed that the oceans of Mars were not Ph. neutral as our oceans are, but they were acid, and the sulfuric acid believed to exist inside them caused sulfur-rich sediments to deposit instead of the carbon-rich ones.
NASA’s MAVEN mission solved the mystery of water on Mars
In order to formulate a pertinent and documented explanation in regard to the questions concerning Mars’ loss of atmosphere, scientists came up with NASA’s MAVEN mission, which showed that 100 grams of the atmosphere are lost to space every second on Mars, rate which is even more amplified by the increasing intensity of solar winds.
Thanks to this mission, we can now surely confirm that billions of years ago Mars lost its magnetic field, which allowed damaging emanation from the sun to penetrate its atmosphere. Also, carbonate rocks that comprise millions of years of organisms history on our planet were impossible to develop on Mars, where the oceans were way too acid to allow this reaction to happen.
Jasmine holds a Master’s in Journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto and writes professionally in a broad variety of genres. She has worked as a senior manager in public relations and communications for major telecommunication companies, and is the former Deputy Director for Media Relations with the Modern Coalition. Jasmine writes primarily in our LGBTTQQIAAP and Science section.