1 Jul 2022 10:35

Russian neutron detector of ExoMars 2016 mission finds hydrogen 'oases' on Martian equator

MOSCOW. July 1 (Interfax) - The Russian-made Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector (FREND) installed onboard the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) of the Russian-European ExoMars-2016 mission has found hydrogen deposits in the Martian soil, the Russian Academy of Sciences' Space Research Institute said in a statement.

"A new map of hydrogen deposits in the Martian soil has been created based on data from the Russian-made FREND neutron telescope installed onboard the TGO of the Russian-European ExoMars 2016 mission. The map depicts vast 'dry' areas and certain 'oases' where the hydrogen content in the soil exceeds 20%," the statement said.

"The mystery is that these 'oases' are found at temperate latitudes, where neither temperature nor atmospheric pressure help conserve water," it said.

The FREND neutron detector measures the flux and energy spectrum of neutrons on the Martian surface, providing data for measuring the hydrogen content on the planet's surface and in its soil to the maximum depth of one meter, the statement said.

"Information about the hydrogen concentration indicates how much water could have been there if the entire amount of discovered hydrogen came from water molecules," it said.

If the water equivalent of hydrogen (WEH) exceeds 20% of the mass, it is likely that the device is observing pure water ice, the statement said.

"The FREND map indicates 23 areas with a high water concentration (WEH > 5 wt%), at the same time, an important criterion is that they starkly differ from the environment by this parameter. The 'oases' of the kind are an interesting material for research," it said.

According to the institute, two such 'oases' are relatively close to the equator. FREND estimates their WEH value at 23-24 wt%, which suggests the possible presence of hydrogen in the form of water ice.

"Yet modern knowledge suggest that an open glacier cannot exist in the equatorial regions of Mars because of the relatively high temperature and low pressure. An explanation to this mystery has yet to be found," the statement said.