The research illustrates an important but hitherto overlooked parameter of the habitability of the planet. At the same time one of the easiest to detect.
- The researchers applied a new research method to Mars and other cosmic bodies that can detect the rate of loss of volatile matter.
- It is established that this loss is largely related to the dimensions of the body.
- The larger it is, the more water and other volatile matter it will retain.
- According to the study, the dimensions of Mars did not reach the critical size required to maintain the oceans.
Mars is full of evidence for the existence of huge amounts of liquid water. This refers to the chemical and mineral composition of Martian rocks and meteorites, as well as the branching channels of ancient rivers and delta remnants as they flowed into the seas and oceans.
However, what Mars certainly does not abound is liquid water itself. One of the greatest mysteries of planetary science is the question of why.
An international team of scientists led by planetary scientists from the University of Washington in St. Lewis tried to answer it using a new research method. his study published The scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences argues that the fate of Mars was decided the moment the planet stopped growing.
The researchers focused on studying stable potassium isotopes. Using their loss, they tried to estimate the loss of volatiles.
Potassium itself is a medium volatile substance. However, its rate of loss is also a relatively reliable indicator of the loss of more volatile matter, such as water.
“Mars-derived meteorites are the only samples available to study the chemical evolution of the Red Planet. These meteorites are several hundred million to four billion years old and reflect the evolution of volatiles on Mars,” says Kun Wang, senior member of the authors’ team.
The larger it is, the more water will be
Research on Martian rock samples has shown that Mars lost significantly more potassium and other volatiles than Earth during its formation. But it retained a much larger size than the 520-kilometre long asteroid (actually the “protoplanet”) Vesta.
The results show a clear and well-defined relationship between the dimensions (and mass) of a cosmic body and its potassium content.
“Finding a link between potassium isotopes and body gravity is a new discovery that has important implications for our understanding of when and how planets gain and lose volatiles,” said study co-author Katharina Luders.
He discovered it
“Mars was certainly once rich in water. But it is difficult to determine how much water was originally on Mars from data from space probes and rovers,” says Kun Wang.
According to an American researcher, some models show that the young planet Mars was much richer in water than the young Earth. “It turns out that this is not true,” says the American researcher.
“The fate of Mars has been decided from the beginning. Apparently, there is a minimum size limit that allows rocky planets to retain enough water to be habitable and have a plate tectonic on their surface. Wang believes that Mars did not meet this requirement.
Mars was once like Earth. What happened?
Zdroj: Sean Garcia, University of Washington
Searching for habitable worlds
According to the researchers, the results of the new study are of great interest to the search for habitable exoplanets.
The main parameter that determines the classification of an exoplanet among potentially habitable worlds is currently the distance from its parent star.
“The results of our study confirm that only planets with narrow dimensions would retain enough, but not a large amount of water, to develop a habitable environment on their surface,” says study co-author Klaus Mezger.
“Dimensions are among the most easily detectable parameters of exoplanets. If we know the size and mass of the planet, we can determine how much water the body retained during its early evolution,” concludes Kun Wang.
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