The planet Mars may have been wetter than previously thought, according to a new study led by a Northern Illinois University geography professor and released Monday in the journal Nature Communications.
NIU professor Wei Luo says Mars had ten times more water than previous studies have indicated. He says he came to that conclusion by studying the planet’s three-billion-year-old valley network and determining how much water would be necessary to create them.
“The material eroded from the valley is much larger than that estimate,” Luo said, "and then the water required to form the valley is also much larger.”
Luo says he and his team used an algorithm to calculate the volume of the space in the valleys and how much water would be needed to create those spaces through erosion. He says one missing piece of the puzzle is figuring out how Mars could have the ideal climate for a water cycle, since our solar system's Sun was not large enough to maintain that type of climate at that time.
“So that’s still something we don’t know,” Luo said, "but the geomorphological evidence is there."
NIU doctoral student Xuezhi Cang and University of Virginia professor Alan Howard also contributed to the study.