Dust storms blamed for the disappearance of water from the atmosphere of Mars

Dust storms blamed for the disappearance of water from the atmosphere of Mars
Dust storms blamed for the disappearance of water from the atmosphere of Mars
Anonim

Data from the ExoMars-TGO probe show that due to dust storms, water from the atmosphere of Mars escapes into space from five to ten times faster than before. These storms occur almost every year, so they played an important role in the disappearance of water from the Red Planet, scientists say. The research results were published in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy.

Scientists believe that in ancient times, rivers, lakes and entire oceans of water existed on the surface of Mars. There was about the same water in them as in the Arctic Ocean. The total amount of water on young Mars would be enough to cover its surface with a layer 140 meters thick. Scientists cannot yet say where all this water went.

Two orbital probes are trying to solve this riddle at once - the American one, MAVEN, and the Russian-European one, ExoMars-TGO. Both devices measure how much water can be in the rarefied atmosphere of Mars, and track fluctuations in its concentration associated with the changing seasons, dust storms and other atmospheric phenomena.

Analyzing data from the ExoMars-TGO, MAVEN and Mars-Express satellites, planetary scientists led by Oleg Korablev, Deputy Director of the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and one of the scientific leaders of the ExoMars-TGO mission, found out that the disappearance of water from the surface and from the atmosphere of Mars an unexpectedly important role was played by regional dust storms.

This information was collected during a powerful regional dust storm that took place on Mars in January-February 2019. It covered a significant part of the planet's area, but did not turn into an analogue of a global storm, similar to the one that destroyed the Opportunity rover in the summer of 2018.

It was winter at that time in the northern hemisphere of Mars, when quite strong dust storms usually begin. The large amount of dust in the Martian air has increased the temperature on the planet's surface by two dozen degrees. This dramatically changed the "behavior" of water in the atmosphere of Mars. Prior to this, the ExoMars-TGO sensors did not record significant amounts of water at an altitude of 60 km or more, and after the start of the dust storm, its amount began to grow sharply.

As a result, over the next forty Martian days, the rate of water volatilization from the planet's atmosphere increased by about 5-10 times. During this time, according to scientists, Mars lost as much water as in summer, when the rate of water volatilization usually reaches a year's maximum.

Such dust storms, as noted by Korablev and his colleagues, occur on Mars almost every year. This speaks in favor of the fact that in the past they played a key role in the disappearance of water from the surface of the Red Planet and continue to significantly affect the appearance and chemical composition of the planet, the scientists concluded.

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