A new study says that although Mars has had water in the past, it has been doomed to dehydration from the beginning. Apparently, the small size of the planet is one of the most important factors that has made Mars unable to maintain its water currents and has brought it to its current state.
Researchers at the University of Washington have concluded that water conservation on terrestrial planets requires a certain amount of water. If it has planets of this size, it can become a good environment for life. Researchers believe that this threshold is larger than the size of Mars.
In this study, scientists studied 20 meteorites that were considered as samples of the composition of the Red Planet. They measured the abundance of various potassium isotopes in these rocks, which were between 200 million and 4 billion years old. Isotopes are copies of an element whose number of neutrons within their nucleus varies.
The study’s lead author, Gene Tian, and his team used potassium, known as the K symbol, as a tracer for other volatile elements such as water. They found that Mars lost far more volatiles than it did when Earth formed. Let’s not forget that the Earth is 9 times larger than the Red Planet.
“The reason for the much lower frequency of volatile elements and their combinations on differentiated planets than unstructured meteorites has been one of our old questions,” said Katrina Lauders, one of the team’s researchers. “Differentiation” refers to a mass whose internal part is decomposed into different layers, including the shell, mantle, and nucleus.
“Discovering the correlation between K isotope compositions and planetary gravity is a new discovery with important qualitative complexities about when and how volatile matter is received and lost on different planets,” Lauders said. According to the findings of this study, small planets lose a large part of their water during formation and their magnetic field is deactivated relatively quickly. This also dilutes their atmosphere.
The researchers claim that this study shows that the planets must have a very specific size in order to have neither too little nor too much water. Astronomers can now look for habitable planets with the help of this study.