The Case for Standing Water On Mars


“Mars Limb” Image Copyright 2015 by Marc Dantonio

Here and there on the net in forums and on Facebook sites there are numerous posts that discuss the case for liquid water on Mars. The NASA rover photos are often shown in false color which can make some areas look like they are wet or contain standing water. But what is REALLY going on with Mars? Can standing water exist? Has it ever existed? This article discusses a little bit of the science of Mars and its past, and looks at conditions today which are markedly different from early Mars.

Early in Mars’ history, its atmosphere was much thicker than it was today. In those earlier times, water likely existed in standing pools if not global oceans depending on the hypothesis. Mars’ atmosphere though was thinned over time due to a number of different factors. For one thing, the molten core cooled to near solid and the magnetic field thus diminished leaving Mars without a fully encompassing and protective magnetic field. This allowed the high energy radiation from the sun to strike the atmosphere directly which destroyed molecules of water, carbon dioxide and oxygen for instance. The resulting atoms were lost to space, a process that continues to this day. NASA’s Maven mission clearly shows carbon and oxygen bleeding off of Mars slowly year by year. ( see Fig 1 below).

Fig 1:NASA’s Maven spacecraft data showing how carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen are ‘bleeding’ off of Mars to this day. Public Domain Maven Image courtesy of NASA.

Another way that early Mars could have lost atmosphere was during massive impacts with meteors and asteroids. Mars’ gravity is only 0.38 times that of Earth. So an impact of a large asteroid or meteor would have more than enough energy to not just —> Read More