A recently published study specified that dust storms can contribute substantially to drying out planet Mars.

According to a Tech Explorist report, the atmosphere on the Red Planet is much thinner than the atmosphere on Earth. Still, it produces winds, and when these winds pick up the dust elements on Mars, a dust storm can happen.

Scientists have said they believed that the Red Planet was once warm and wet like our planet and lost most of the majority of its water to outer space.

This then brings the question of how it lost remnants intangible, and scientists at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics or LASP at the University of Colorado Boulder seem to have found the answer.

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Science Times - Dust Storms on Mars: Scientists Believe These are the Reasons for the Heating of Atmosphere on the Red Planet
(Photo: NASA Hubble on Wikimedia Commons)
Dust Storm on Mars

Dust Storms Role in the Drying Out of Mars

Until to date, Mars researchers believe that dust storms contributed significantly to the planet's drying out. However, because of a lack of measurements, they could not connect the whole picture.

Corresponding observations from three spacecraft orbiting the Red Planet in January and February 2019 specified that Mars is losing twice the amount of water during dust storms compared to calmer periods.

This means that a dust storm is heating the atmosphere. This causes winds to propel water vapor to much higher altitudes compared to the normal.

As specified in the study, at these highest altitudes, the atmosphere of Mars is thin, and water molecules are more susceptible to ultraviolet radiation, which is tearing them into their lighter oxygen and hydrogen components. Hydrogen, the lightest element, the research indicated, "is then easily lost in space."

Simultaneous Measurements Aboard MAVEN Spacecraft

According to researcher Michael Chaffin from the LASP, all that's needed to be done to lose water permanently is to lose a single hydrogen atom since the oxygen and hydrogen cannot recombine into water. Therefore, Chaffin continued that a water molecule has been lost when a hydrogen atom has been lost.

The study, Martian water loss to space enhanced by regional dust storms, published in Nature Astronomy, was made possible by four instruments' simultaneous measurements aboard the spacecraft.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter gauged the dust, temperature, and water-ice concentrations from the surface at roughly 100 kilometers above it.

Within the same altitude range, the Trace Gas Orbiter of the European Agency gauged the water vapor and ice's concentration.

Furthermore, the imaging ultraviolet spectrometer aboard the MAVEN spacecraft of NASA capped off the measurements by reporting the hydrogen's amount at the highest altitude in the atmosphere of the Red Planet, 1,000 kilometers above its surface.

Essentially, Trace Gas Orbiter found 10 times more water in the center atmosphere following the beginning of a dust storm, coinciding accurately with data from infrared radiometer on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Lastly, the MAVEN observations 1,000 kilometers atop the surface also concurred, exhibiting a 50-percent increase of hydrogen during the dust storm.

According to Martian water expert Geronimo Villanueva at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, also a co-author on the paper of Chaffin, this study helps in virtually going back in time and say, "Okay, now there's another way" of losing water that will help relate the little water there is on Mars at present, with the humongous amount of water there was in the past.

Related information about dust storms on Mars is shown on Engadget's YouTube video below:


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Check out more news and information on Mars in Science Times.