[CUA Office of Public Affairs]

Nov. 30, 2001


CUA Scientist Finds More Evidence That Mars Once Was Wet

Although most water on Mars is now in the form of ice, when the planet took shape 4.5 billion years ago, it may have been “born” with more water per square mile than there is on Earth and could have been able to support life, according to a new study by Research Professor Vladimir Krasnopolsky, who works in CUA’s Institute for Astrophysics and Computational Sciences.

Krasnopolsky and his research colleague, Paul Feldman of Johns Hopkins University, have published their findings in the Nov. 30 issue of Science Magazine. 

The article concludes that at one time there was enough water on Mars to cover the planet at least three-quarters of a mile deep – about 1.3 times more water per mass than on Earth.

“This study helps to understand the current structure and processes in the Martian atmosphere,” said Krasnopolsky, the paper’s lead author. “Our result is an important clue to reconstruct the history of Martian water, because with it and other results, we can estimate the volume of primordial Martian oceans. This is important for understanding the formation of the solar system bodies, including Earth, and may even have some impact for future environmental studies of Earth’s atmosphere.”


Understanding the history of Martian water is of interest because liquid water is required to support known forms of life. The debate over life on Mars has intensified since 1996, when a team of NASA scientists reported finding evidence of organic molecules and microscopic fossils in a Martian meteorite that fell to earth.


“I believe that our results are encouraging for further search for life on Mars, although they cannot establish or reject the presence of life,” Krasnopolsky said.


Because the surface of Mars is now so dry, the goal of the NASA Mars program is to find out what happened to all of the water that used to flow through what are now dry riverbeds. Topographic surveys of the planet taken from NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft show that its northern hemisphere is a frozen, desert-like basin.


CUA’s Institute for Astrophysics and Computational Sciences was established in 1996 with the goal of developing research and educational programs in astrophysics and computational sciences at CUA and promoting closer interaction between the university and government agencies.

Visit the following link to read more about Krasnopolsky’s findings:






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Revised: March 27, 2001

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