According to a new discovery, Mars had water more recently than what was previously thought.
The discovery was made after the analysis of martian rocks by China’s Zhurong rover, suggesting that liquid water existed hundreds of millions of years more recently than what was previously claimed.
Water on Mars
Previously when evidence of water on Mars was found, it was thought that the planet lost liquid water about 3 billion years ago, right at the beginning of the Amazonian period, which continues today.
The Chinese Zhurong rover has been exploring Utopia Planitia since May 2021. It is a relatively unexplored impact crater in northern Mars. Scientists at the National Space Science Centre in Beijing, China, found water in minerals, when the rover’s spectrometers analysed the rocks.
This discovery of hydrated minerals will reshape the geological history of the region and the climate evolution of Mars.
The sample from rocks was obtained using a laser and then analysed by the rover using its two on-board spectrometers. The analysis was then compared with known hydrated minerals in rocks that are found on Earth.
The evidence suggested that the liquid water existed till the late Amazonian, however, researchers weren’t able to assess the exact time period.
This discovery will help in assessing how much water is still trapped there in ice or mineral form. It will also help in the search for a potential source of water for future missions there.
The presence of hydrated minerals in relatively young rocks implies that liquid water was there on the surface of mars when those rocks were formed. The Zhurong rover is not equipped with the tools to identify the kind of the hydrated minerals, so future research must be on identification of these minerals.