Researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Lunar Planetary Institute, and Carnegie Institute of Washington report on geochemical studies that help towards settling the controversy that surrounds the origin, abundance, and history of water on Mars.
Figure caption Hydrogen isotopic compositions of Martian volatile reservoirs (left diagram): near-surface crustal water (green square) and primordial water in the mantle (red triangle). These hydrogen isotopic compositions were obtained from tiny (<20 ìm) melt inclusions (pointed by red arrows) hosted by olivines in martian basaltic meteorites, and expressed as permillage difference (äD) relative to the reference Earth’s ocean water; äD = [(D/H)sample/(D/H)reference-1] x 1000. Most terrestrial water has relatively limited äD values, which overlap with the martian primordial water and bulk-chondrites but are distinct from comets and the martian atmosphere and crustal water. The right figure is an electron microprobe image (called back-scattered electron or compositional image); brighter areas indicate denser (i.e., richer in heavy elements such as iron) than darker areas.
As on Earth hydrogen also exists in the form of its isotope heavy hydrogen or deuterium (D), which has a neutron as well as proton at the nucleus. The ratio H/D changes as a result of lighter hydrogen being lost more readily from the Martian atmosphere. Consequently D/H ratios can provide important information on the origin of water and rocks on Mars.
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