Mars contains more oxygen-rich water than assumed, says study

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Mars (Representational image)
Mars (Representational image)

New Delhi : A new research reveals that Mars is blessed with good amount of oxygen-rich water than previously thought. The study indicates that the quantity of water could be enough to support aerobic respiration. This new development stands against the traditional beliefs about life in Red planet.

Scientists believed that living organisms would not be able to survive on Mars due to the unfavourable atmospheric condition. Also, it was confirmed that water on Mars is in the form of ice or hydrated minerals. Therefore, the possibility of salty, oxygen-rich puddles of water beneath Mars’ surface was not considered.

But now, a study conducted by scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) concludes that  if liquid water exists on Mars, it could contain more oxygen than actually assumed.

Using sophisticated computer models, the team determined that it is possible for puddles to exist and potentially support microbes. Mars’ poles are areas where the temperature is lower and pressure is higher, thus there could be chances of more oxygen being added to water. And, the poles of the Red planet are the most likely place where evidence of life can be found.

“If there are brines on Mars, then the oxygen would have no choice but to infiltrate them,” the study’s co-author Woody Fischer, a geo-biologist at Caltech said in a press release. “The oxygen would make it everywhere,” Smithsonian reported.

“We were absolutely flabbergasted,” said lead author Vlada Stamenković of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “I went back to recalculate everything like five different times to make sure it’s a real thing,” according to the Smithsonian report.

On the contrary, it must be noted that the Mars’ atmosphere is about 160 times thinner than that of Earth and mostly contains carbon dioxide. The availability of liquid water on Mars still remains uncertain. 

“Oxygen is a key ingredient when determining the habitability of an environment, but it is relatively scarce on Mars,” Woody Fischer said in an official statement.

“Nobody ever thought that the concentrations of dissolved oxygen needed for aerobic respiration could theoretically exist on Mars,” NASA’s Vlada Stamenković said further.