- Research by scientists at St. Louis Washington University suggests that the relatively small size of Mars prevents it from holding large amounts of water
- Previous research suggests that the weak magnetic field of the planet was the reason for the loss of its atmosphere & liquid water
- The research was done using potassium isotopes which confirmed that Mars had lost more potassium and other volatile elements during its formation as compared to Earth
Research for Life on Mars
Till now, many researchers and scientists have been in search of life on Mars due to its proximities and similarities to Earth. Mars has a cold climate and lacks plate tectonics or continental drift holding the best records of prebiotic conditions leading to life. Following the theories of the past existence of surface liquid water, scientists started searching for evidence of liquid water on the planet that is crucial for life on Earth and other planets.
One such research from scientists at St. Louis Washington University suggests that the small size of Mars might be preventing the planet from holding large amounts of water restricting life on the planet.
Evidence for Liquid Water
In the 1980s, NASA had conducted a study on Martian meteorites using remote sensing capabilities. The study revealed considerable evidence that Mars was a water-rich world. Researchers suggest that the planet’s weakening magnetic field might be the reason for the loss of its atmosphere and liquid water.
Supporting this evidence, further analysis was done of the planet by the Viking Orbiter and Martian surface rovers Curiosity and Perseverance. The research unearthed evidence showing landscapes shaped by flood channels and river valleys.
Despite all the evidence, the search for liquid water on the planet’s surface has yielded no results. However, researchers from the Washington University in St. Louis, United States suggest a different theory behind the loss of liquid water of the planet. According to them, the small size of Mars is probably the main reason preventing the planet to retain large amounts of water. There is likely a threshold for size requirements of rocky planets that exceeds the mass of Mars, preventing the planet to retain enough water to enable habitability and plate tectonics.
Study Confirming Loss of Volatile Elements
To confirm this theory, researchers used potassium isotopes, which are moderately volatile to detect the presence and measure abundance and distribution of more volatile elements and compounds like water. They measured the composition of potassium isotope on 20 confirmed Martian meteorites. These meteorites have been selected to be representative of the planet’s silicon composition. This study confirmed that Mars had lost more potassium and other volatile elements during its formation as compared to Earth. However, the planet had retained more volatile elements than the moon that is much smaller and direr than other planets.