A study conducted by a group of researchers brought to light that in the early days, around twenty percent of the surface of Mars was covered by an ocean. As said by the senior scientist, Michael Mumma at the Goddard Space Flight Center of NASA, on an average, the water body was near about five thousand feet (one thousand five hundred meters) deep. However, currently just thirteen percent of the early water body is left and that is trapped somewhere below the ice caps.
As of now, the red planet is a desert of ice with an atmosphere of carbon dioxide that is hundred times thinner as compared to the Earth. According to the received evidence, the ocean on the Martian surface had a similar depth as that of the Mediterranean Sea. With the atmosphere of the planet becoming gradually thinner, the water body vanished into space. As observed in the study, the hydrogen atoms got released from the upper atmosphere of the red planet whereas the heavy hydrogen atoms in the water remained locked on Mars. As hydrogen got released out from the planet, Mars transformed to an immensely dry planet.
Mumma said in a statement in the year 2015, “Now we know that Mars water is much more enriched than terrestrial ocean water in the heavy form of water, the deuterated form.” He further stated, “Immediately that permits us to estimate the amount of water Mars has lost since it was young.”
As per the reports, the ocean that was present on Mars during the ancient times was much saltier in comparison to the Great Salt Lake. Nicholas Tosca at the St. Peters College in Oxford University said in a statement, “If there was any life on Mars, it would have needed to start off at high acidity and high salinity.” Tosca further added, “Life on Mars would require biology that was completely different from any we know on Earth.”
As the remaining water on the Martian surface is trapped in ice caps, there may be life existing inside them. The discovery of methane in the atmosphere of Mars further strengthened this idea giving scientists a belief that it could have been released by bacteria living on the red planet. Scientists now await further confirmation that would depend on the Webb Space Telescope that would study Mars.