New Delhi | Jagran Trending Desk: Martian dust storms may have lofted the planet's water to upper atmosphere, where it gets broken down by electrically charged particles, a new data from NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter has suggested. The phenomenon explains how the the red planet lost the equivalent of a global ocean of water -- hundreds of metres deep -- to the outer space over billion of years of its existence. 

Using the instrument aboard NASA's MAVEN, scientists discovered a large amount of water in the upper atmosphere of Mars. In the absence of dust storms on the planet, water would not have reached such altitudes, but simply condensed into snow and fallen back to the surface, just like on Earth. 

"We were all surprised to find water so high in the atmosphere," said Shane W Stone, as quoted in a statement by NASA. "The measurements we used could have only come from MAVEN as it soars through the atmosphere of Mars, high above the planet's surface."

There are abundant ions in the upper atmosphere of Mars to break apart water molecules 10 times faster than they are destroyed in lower altitudes. The planet continues to lose its remaining water to this day due to the regional and global dust storms.  

"What's unique about this discovery is that it provides us with a new pathway that we didn't think existed for water to escape the Martian environment," said Mehdi Benna, a Goddard planetary scientist. "It will fundamentally change our estimates of how fast water is escaping today and how fast it escaped in the past."

Posted By: Lakshay Raja