New experiments have revealed how Mars lost its oceans due to a change in the magnetic field

Mars, the 4th planet from the Sun in our solar system, has been a fascination for space exploration and a possible future colony for humans over the century. However, the current climatic situations on Mars are not entirely conducive to human life.

However, the idea that Mars is a habitable planet is not entirely true; as the planet is known to once have ocean waters and a magnetic field, which are one of the key indicators for life to thrive there. In a new study, experiments were done to determine how Mars lost its oceans.

Mars, a future human settlement?

(Photo: NASA via Getty Images)

Mars is also known as the “red planet” because iron minerals on the planet’s soil oxidize or rust, giving the Martian atmosphere and surface the reddish appearance, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The red planet is also one of the most explored celestial bodies in our solar system. Unlike other planets, Mars is the only one where we have sent space rovers for exploration and the Martian landscape has been subject to possible human settlement in the future.

In a new study published in the journal Science News on February 8, researchers have found that the behavior of the Red Planet’s molten metal in its core may have caused both the formation and disappearance of its magnetic field as well as its ocean waters.

Read also : Terrestrial organisms could survive on Mars

Central questions surrounding the study

Kei Hirose, a professor at the University of Tokyo – Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, came up with several questions about Mars, and these questions were the main themes on which the study revolved:

  • Was there a magnetic field around Mars?
  • Why was there a magnetic field on the red planet?
  • Why was he there so briefly?

To answer Hirose’s questions, the study’s lead author Shunpei Yokoo, who holds a Ph.D. student at Hirose’s lab and at the University of Tokyo, organized a team to simulate the conditions of Mars at a time when it has a magnetic field.

Experiment: simulation of the core of Mars

Yokoo and the other researchers conducted experiments involving recreating conditions in the core of Mars billions of years ago. The experiment revealed that molten metal inside the planet briefly gave Mars a magnetic field (similar to Earth) but was on the verge of fading.

It has long been thought that the mechanisms of planetary cores and magnetic fields of other planets work similarly to Earth. In the case of Mars, researchers found that seismic readings from NASA’s InSight probe showed Mars’ core to be larger and less dense than we previously thought.

Based on NASA data, the research team hinted that there is a presence of additional lighter elements such as hydrogen in the Red Planet’s core. They conducted an experiment involving iron, sulfur, hydrogen, diamonds, lasers and Fe-SH, to simulate the core of Mars.

The team then placed the elements between the two diamonds, which served as the core of Mars. The diamonds were then compressed and heated the diamonds with an infrared laser.

Disappearance of the magnetic field and the oceans

The result was the homogeneous element Fe-SH split into two different liquids, one rich in sulfur and the other rich in hydrogen, which has not been seen since.

The researchers rationalized that the phenomenon involving the separation of Fe-SH may explain the onset and disappearance of the magnetic field around Mars, stating that it may have caused convection currents capable of evaporating and trapping water in it. an atmosphere around Mars.

According to the University of California, Berkeley, convection currents affect all of a planet’s winds in the atmosphere, tectonic plates in the geosphere, and ocean currents in the hydrosphere.

The study concluded that Mars may have lost its ocean waters when it lost its magnetic field. Its researchers have suggested that a new seismic survey of Mars be conducted to test whether the Red Planet’s core is really in separate layers as they predict.

Related article: The blue color found on Mars dominates the other side of the Red Planet

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