Water on Mars is evaporating faster than expected
New research suggests that Mars' atmosphere becomes 'supersaturated' during warmer parts of the year.
PARIS — New research by France's National Center for Scientific Research suggests that water on Mars is evaporating faster than previously thought.
Scientists analyzed data from the Trace Gas Orbiter, which orbits around Mars, and found seasonal changes affect how water vapor is distributed around the atmosphere.
As the sun warms up the red planet's ice poles, water molecules, in the form of water vapor, are released into the atmosphere. The molecules are then carried by the wind to higher altitudes.
During the warmest parts of the year, Mars' atmosphere becomes "supersaturated" with 10 to 100 times more water vapor than its frigid cold temperatures typically allow. This allows the water to reach the planet's upper atmosphere.
As water molecules make their way to Mars' upper atmosphere, ultraviolet rays from the sun breaks them down into hydrogen and oxygen atoms where the atoms are able to escape into space.
The researchers were surprised at their findings, as they expected that the water vapor would be limited by Mars' cold temperatures and would condense into clouds, according to Space.com.
Franck Montmessin, one of the scientists involved with the study, told the publication that further research would be needed to find out how much water exactly is making its way to Mars' upper atmosphere and escaping so that scientists can get a better understanding of the process.
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