Speculations about water on the planet Mars have always been rife, with recent studies concluding that it did have a wet period. However, recent research has pointed to the fact that Mars didn’t have a single wet period but multiple ones and even though the atmosphere was completely stripped by space, it continued harboring water in river-ways which were allegedly wider than the ones that we see on Earth.
The air-stripping by solar particles has mainly been held responsible for the thinning and almost disappearance of the atmosphere of the planet that took place almost 3.7 billion years ago but recent proof has been found that water was present on it till 1 billion years back in the form of Martian rivers. This finding questions the basic understanding of the mechanism of the effects of a stripped atmosphere on the precipitation of water on the surface.
The analysis was done by Edwin Kite, an assistant professor of Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago. The ancient, large water-ways of Mars was studied by them, which were almost 200 in number, using imagery and data from space probes. The age of these rivers can be determined by counting the craters present in the terrain surrounding it. The conclusion that the team arrived at was the fact that in the 4.5 billion years of history of the planet, water kept flowing through these rivers, if not continuously, but intermittently. This was marked by periods of precipitation.
Since the size of these rivers was massive, it signifies that the water was flowing with intensity. The amount of water is still uncertain though, as the depths could not be accurately determined using the data available. The rivers were also not localized to a particular spot but pretty widespread. All these factors are important in determining the status of water on Mars and the life-sustaining potential that it could have.