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Heat and dust help launch Martian water into space, scientists find

Heat and dust help launch Martian water into space, scientists find
This graph shows how the amount of water in the atmosphere of Mars varies depending on the season. During global and regional dust storms, which happen during southern spring and summer, the amount of water spikes. Credit: University of Arizona/Shane Stone/NASA Goddard/Dan Gallagher

Scientists using an instrument aboard NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, or MAVEN, spacecraft have discovered that water vapor near the surface of the Red Planet is lofted higher into the atmosphere than anyone expected was possible. There, it is easily destroyed by electrically charged gas particles—or ions—and lost to space.


Researchers said that the phenomenon they uncovered is one of several that has led Mars to lose the equivalent of a global ocean of water up to hundreds of feet (or up to hundreds of meters) deep over billions of years. Reporting on their finding on Nov. 13 in the journal Science, researchers said that

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Analysis of a Martian meteorite reveals evidence of water 4.4 billion years ago

Water on ancient Mars
Martian meteorite NWA 7533 is worth more than its weight in gold. Credit: © NASA/Luc Labenne

A meteorite that originated on Mars billions of years ago reveals details of ancient impact events on the red planet. Certain minerals from the Martian crust in the meteorite are oxidized, suggesting the presence of water during the impact that created the meteorite. The finding helps to fill some gaps in knowledge about the role of water in planet formation.


There’s a longstanding question in planetary science about the origin of water on Earth, Mars and other large bodies such as the moon. One hypothesis says that it came from asteroids and comets post-formation. But some planetary researchers think that water might just be one of many substances that occur naturally during the formation of planets. A new analysis of an ancient Martian meteorite adds support for this second hypothesis.

Several years ago, a

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