Evidence is growing that Mars, now cold and dry, had liquid water running on its surface much more recently than previously thought. Scientists have l

Water may have been on Mars much more recently than scientists thought, China's rover suggests

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2022-05-12 06:30:09

Evidence is growing that Mars, now cold and dry, had liquid water running on its surface much more recently than previously thought.

Scientists have long believed that Mars was wet around 3 billion years ago, during the planet's Hesperian period, then lost much of its water. But the a new study presents evidence of water activity from just 700 million years ago, well into the current Amazonian period, posing a new puzzle to crack about the Red Planet and its history.

The new study is based on data from China's Zhurong rover, which is part of the Tianwen-1 mission and touched down on the surface of Mars in May 2021. In particular, the scientists used data the rover gathered during its first 92 Martian days, or sols, at its landing site in Utopia Planitia. Yang Liu, a researcher at the National Space Science Center (NSSC) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and colleagues analyzed data from three different instruments on Zhurong: the laser-induced breakdown spectrometer (MarSCoDe), the telescopic microimaging camera and the short-wave infrared spectrometer.

Those instruments studied minerals that, according to the team, suggest the presence of a substantial quantity of liquid water at the site about 700 million years ago, well into the current Amazonian epoch, which scientists previously thought was dry. 

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