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  • Writer's pictureJosue Flores

Recent Signs of Water in Mars’s Sand Dunes

Updated: May 4, 2023

China’s Mars rover has made the discovery of recent water in Mars’ sand dunes. Cracks on Mars’ dunes show that the planet once had salty waters. This water was present anywhere between 400,000 and 1.4 million years ago. Prior to this discovery, it was thought that Mars had water, but it froze up 3 billion years ago due to climate changes and got locked away. Zhurong, China’s Mars rover, found hydrated minerals in the sand grains showing that the surface isn’t just completely dry. The presence of hydrated minerals shows that there was once water in low latitudes of Mars. It is said that the saltwater didn’t last long since Mars’ temperature rises in the mornings drastically, leaving behind salt and hydrated minerals. Areas of Mars’ surface at the same latitude of this discovery are likely to have the same signs of water. The water was found at low latitudes where it gets cold on its surface. Zhurong fell silent though, likely due to its solar panels being covered by dust. Xiaoguang Qin said in an email that there’s likely, “ more than a film of water on the surface,” so it evaporated quickly. The surface of that region was likely from melting salt water ice cracking it. This explanation made more sense than wind or the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide causing these cracks. This discovery could be important for discovering habitable places. It could also help decide future searches since usually the warmer areas are explored instead of the colder areas. The warmer areas are searched to find signs of other life but this new discovery could possibly help change the focus of areas to search. China’s Mars rover, Zhurong was launched in 2020 and stopped operating in May of 2022. However, it was expected to power back on in December when lighting conditions could be better for the solar panels.

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