Researchers from Binghamton University (New York, USA) argue in a study recently that much of the water on Mars could be trapped within clay minerals, known as smectite and located miles below the surface.
In a release published this Tuesday, scientists point out that there is evidence that rivers and lakes were formed on Mars at some point, however, today there is no trace of water left on their surface.
David Jenkins, Professor of Geological Sciences and Environmental Studies at Binghamton University, and former graduate student Brittany DePasquale discovered that smectite rich in iron, the least thermally stable, is capable of forming at depths up to 30 kilometers and it could store the missing water of the red planet. On Earth, smectite usually occurs as a result of a reaction between rock and water, although the conditions for such a reaction remain poorly determined.
“Until recently, many people, including me, assumed that the water that previously existed on Mars was now present as ice stored in the polar caps and as ice underground,” Jenkins said, revealing that over the past few years orbiting satellites around the planet collected enough information to determine that are not enough neither the existing amount of ice nor the loss of steam to be responsible for the disappearance of “the lowest estimates of the amount of water that ever existed on Mars.”
“Once we saw that ferrous iron smectite, the least thermally stable form of smectite, was stable up to temperatures approximately 600 ° C at 30 kilometers depth, it was clear that smectite could actually be an important deposit for the ‘missing water’ on Mars, “said the expert, who performed the necessary tests in his laboratory.
However, the theory of Jenkins and DePasquale cannot be proven at the moment, since there is currently no equipment capable of sufficiently drilling the surface of the planet. “The more difficult question, about the total amount of clay minerals on the surface or in the environment near the surface of Mars, has not yet been determined with the precision necessary to really confirm that clay minerals can be the dominant water reservoir on Mars“lamented the scientist.