Scientists may have just figured out where all the water on Mars went –

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Scientists now know there are traces of water on Mars, and it’s believed that billions of years ago the Red Planet was actually covered in oceans, lakes and rivers. So, where did it all go? A new theory has suggested that a hole in the Martian atmosphere opens every couple of years and vents the planet’s water supply into space as well as depositing whatever’s left on the north and south poles. The idea comes from an international team comprised of Russian and German scientists who have been studying the strange behaviour of the water cycle on the planet. We know there’s water vapour in Mars’ upper atmosphere – which is strange because there’s a middle layer to the atmosphere that should be trapping water. The team ran computer simulations and believe that the answer comes from some unique atmospheric processes that come about as a result of Mars’ orbit. The Red Planet’s southern hemisphere comes much closer to the sun during its ‘summer’ every couple of years because of the eccentric orbit. During that time, the researchers say, a window opens in Mars’ middle atmosphere between 37 and 56 miles (60 and 90 kilometers) in altitude. This allows water vapor to pass through and escape into the upper atmosphere. Or, to put it more technically: ‘The simulations reveal a seasonal water “pump” mechanism responsible for the upward transport of water vapor. This mechanism occurs in high latitudes above 60° of the southern hemisphere at perihelion, when the upward branch of the meridional circulation is particularly strong.’ Once the water vapour passes through this middle section of Mars’ atmosphere, it either drifts north or south towards Mars’ poles or the ultraviolet light in the upper atmosphere severs the bonds between oxygen and hydrogen in the molecules. The hydrogen, which is lighter, drifts away into space while the oxygen is left hanging in the atmosphere. The scientists say this theory could explain why Mars was once covered, billions of years ago, in watery oceans but is now just a dry, dusty desert. H/t LiveScience