The appearance of a small amount of liquid water on the entire surface of Mars was designed by researchers at the Astronomical Institute of the Center for Earth and Astronomical Sciences Research (CSFK). According to their results, in the spring and summer, late evening and early morning may be favorable, and more liquid water may appear in the northern hemisphere than in the south.

Institute of Astronomy researchers Bernadette Ball and Akos Keristori studied hygroscopic salts that bind water vapor directly from the atmosphere and can form a liquid brine.

One of the main goals of research into the possibilities of extraterrestrial life is to discover the presence of liquid water, which is necessary for life. There was more water on Mars millions of years ago, but due to weak gravity and no magnetic shield or magnetosphere, much of it can now escape into space.

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The remaining water resources on the planet today are formed mostly in the form of water vapor and ice. Because of the cold (average -60°C) and extremely low air pressure prevailing on Mars, even if surface water ice melts, it quickly evaporates or sublimates from the ice to the gas phase and cannot remain stable in the liquid state. However, saline aqueous solutions can be liquid at very low temperatures.

Experts say the Phoenix spacecraft, and later Curiosity’s Marsman rover, also discovered various perchlorate salts on Mars’ surface, which aid in the liquefaction process due to their high-moisture properties. When you do this, the solid salt absorbs so much water that it becomes a liquid substance. No field experiments have been conducted on Mars yet, so this phenomenon can be studied mainly by computer modeling at the moment. For the first time in 2023, the European ExoMars program is set to investigate liquefaction on Mars.

As written, the BABLE (Brine Observation Transition to Liquid Experiment) of the HABIT (HabitAbility: Brine Radiation and Temperature) instrument cluster is housed in a Russian-Kazakh landing unit carrying the Rosalind Franklin rover. This is the tool that Hungarian researchers from CSFK are also participating in, which will study the vapor absorption capacity of several types of salt.

The minimum condition for the appearance of an aqueous brine solution is the achievement of the required atmospheric temperature and humidity values, which differ for each salt. The magnesium perchlorate and calcium perchlorate studied in the current Hungarian research can be liquid even at very low temperatures, around -70 °C, if the humidity is high enough.

“I have been designing the appearance of liquid Martian water for years, and we will learn a lot from the first experimental results on Mars,” said Pal Bernadette, a doctoral student at the CSFK Institute of Astronomy.

According to the results of Hungarian researchers, an aqueous solution of calcium perchlorate may appear in both hemispheres from spring to late summer, examining the entire Martian year. On local Mars time, this is likely from late evening to early morning and is likely expected around 1am. When examining the entire surface of the planet, liquefied salts can appear almost anywhere in the northern hemisphere, in regions greater than 30 degrees of latitude, and large basins (Acidalia Planitia and Utopia Planitia) appear as areas of interest in the early hours of the morning.

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The announcement highlights that the planned landing site for ExoMars, Oxia Planum, could be an ideal location for the emergence of the liquid water phase in both the late evening and early morning hours. In the Southern Hemisphere, a small amount of liquid water may temporarily appear at the edge of the seasonal ice cap retreat.

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