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4 Billion Years of Martian History in 2 Minutes

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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In honor of a slew of new results coming from NASA’s Curiosity rover, here’s a two-minute simulation of our current best-bet for how the martian environment has evolved over the past 4 billion years. From temperate and wet to frigid desert. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab.

Caleb A. Scharf About the Author: Caleb Scharf is the director of Columbia University's multidisciplinary Astrobiology Center. He has worked in the fields of observational cosmology, X-ray astronomy, and more recently exoplanetary science. His books include Gravity's Engines (2012) and The Copernicus Complex (2014) (both from Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux.) Follow on Twitter @caleb_scharf.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. mihrant 4:55 pm 12/10/2013

    Where did all the water go? In fact, where did it come from in the first place?

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  2. 2. Caleb A. Scharf in reply to Caleb A. Scharf 8:17 am 12/13/2013

    Good question – some (a lot?) of the water is still there, just frozen into the subsurface of Mars and in the polar regions. Some will have been lost through the atmosphere – as H2O dissociates the hydrogen is most easily lost to space and that means the water molecule can’t be formed again, hence the planet dries out over time. As to where the water came from – from the solid pieces that agglomerated during planetary assembly 4.5 billion years ago, and possibly from a ‘veneer’ of water rich objects (asteroids, plus perhaps some comets) much as may have happened here on Earth.

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