Mars’ boiling water: Scientists from Britain, France and the US solve Mars’ mysterious water debate

By @ritwikroy1985 on
Portions of the Martian surface shot by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show many channels from 1 meter to 10 meters wide on a scarp in the Hellas impact basin, in this photograph taken January 14, 2011 and released by NASA March 9, 2011. Reuters/NASA

A team of scientists from Britain, France and the US have proved a 2015 study that gave the world the strongest evidence of liquid water on Mars. The scientists constructed models based on the study and simulated Mars’ conditions in Earth-bound laboratory experiments. They backed the theory that the Martian slopes were created by nothing else but water. Importantly, the temperature existing in the Martian conditions was not the major factor in boiling the water, but the pressure created by the atmosphere prevailing in Mars.

For long, scientists have reiterated the fact that for life to exist on Mars, liquid water is essential. Scientists were long baffled by the low atmospheric pressure in the Red Planet. Mars’ low atmospheric pressure never allowed liquid water to stay in that state for long and it either made the water freeze or boil. Scientists, with their latest study, tried to find out how water could have made those lines on the Martian surface.

The scientists, in the study, used a block of ice on a 30-degree plastic slope covered with loose fine-grained sand. Led by Marion Masse of the University of Nantes in France, the researchers allowed the ice to melt in a chamber hosting Martian conditions. Summer temperature and Martian pressure was recreated inside the chamber. Next, the researchers performed the same experiment under earth conditions to compare the results. The result was incredible that made the scientists rejoice.

“The morphologies produced on the sandy slopes in these experiments are remarkably similar to the streaks observed on Mars. This process in which unstable boiling water causes grains to hop and trigger slope failures may underlie some of the active landforms observed on the Martian surface,” said Wouter Marra of the geosciences faculty of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands.

Inside the Martian chamber, the melting ice produced a liquid that boiled energetically. It flowed down the slopes and then filtered into the sand. As the ice melted and boiled, the evaporating water blasted grains upward. This created ridges and they collapsed when they became too steep. This, in turn, created channels.

However, the boiling water theory makes chances of life on Mars even bleaker.

“[Our results] show much less water is needed and that the water that is produced is very short-lived — therefore not a fabulous environment for micro-organisms,” said co-author of the paper, Susan Conway.

Join the Discussion