A team of researchers at the University of Copenhagen’s Center for Star and Planet Formation, working with colleagues from the University of Paris, ETH Zürich and the University of Bern, have found evidence suggesting that most of the water that made up an ancient global ocean on Mars came from carbon-rich chondrite meteorites from the outer solar system. . The study has been published in Science advances.
Previous research has suggested that, at some point in time, Mars was either completely covered or covered in water OceanAnd that the water comes from gases that escape from below the surface and liquefy as they cool. In this new effort, the researchers suggest that the water most likely came from another source — meteorites traveling from the outer solar system.
The researchers came to this conclusion after studying fragments ejected from the surface of Mars after asteroid collisions, which made their way to Earth in the form of meteorites. The researchers studied 31 of them, looking specifically for chromium isotope fingerprints. Chromium 54 does not occur naturally on Mars; Thus, its presence in crust samples taken from Mars indicates that the surface has collided with material from elsewhere.
The researchers found enough material to estimate the number of meteorites that have hit Mars. They noted that this allowed them to estimate how much water was transported to the planet as well.
Previous research has shown that these meteorites are composed of 10% water. This allowed them to calculate how much water was likely to be delivered to the planet – it was enough to cover the entire surface to a depth of 300 meters. This finding indicates that water-rich asteroids were the main source of water filling the oceans of Mars. It also indicates that most of the water on other bodies in the solar system likely came from the outer solar system via meteorites as well.
Ke Zhu et al, Late delivery of exotic chromium to the Martian crust by water-rich carbonaceous asteroids, Science advances (2022). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abp8415
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