Even more evidence indicates ‘water bodies’ below the surface of Mars.

Photo Credit: ESA
Photo Credit: ESA

By popular mechanics

In 2018, planetary scientist Roberto Orisi and his colleagues sparked a multi-planetary dispute after they claimed to have found evidence of a satellite lake under the ice at the southern pole of Mars. At the time, fellow planetary scientists met the claims with an in-depth investigation.

Now, Orosei, a planetary scientist at the National Institute for Astrophysics in Italy, and his fellow researchers say they have new, additional evidence that these deep, massive subglacial lakes are indeed do Present. They published Their conclusions In the magazine this week Nature astronomy.

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If these lakes are, in fact, real, they can change our understanding of whether life can still exist on Mars. “This area is the closest thing to ‘habitable’ on Mars that has been found so far,” Orosi reported Science news.

Key ingredient: salt

Scientists believe that Mars was involved in a vast network of sea of ​​liquid water about 4 billion years ago. Now, the planet is a dusty, desolate wasteland. But some of that water is still on the surface of Mars as an ice tuck with crater walls standing at the poles of the planet. Because the surface of Mars is so cold – and because the atmospheric pressure is so low – liquid water cannot exist on its surface.

Researchers believe that it may be salt, the secret ingredient in keeping water liquid below the surface. Because salt lowers the freezing temperature of water, it is more likely that any liquid water below the surface of the red planet will have a good amount of it.

“If the really bright material is liquid water, I think it’s more likely to represent some kind of slush or mud,” said planetary geologist Mike Sorey of Purdue University. Nature. There is a chance that a nearby source of geothermal energy may also heat the water.

Overall, the latest observations revealed three new possible bodies of water in addition to the one previously observed in 2018. The largest of the buried lakes, European Space Agency (ESA) reports, can be found near the South Pole of Mars and can measure approximately 12 by 12 miles. Based on the data, it appears to be surrounded by a cluster of three small ponds.

So what does this mean for searching for evidence of life on Mars? Salty environments are extremely difficult for microorganisms to live in, but some extremes have found a way to live in similar habitats on Earth. For example, in 2016, researchers Discovered rich colonies of microbes Along the salt-strewn edges of Mono Lake in California.

Analysis of old data

Orosi and his team analyzed data from ESA’s Mars Express investigation, which has circled Mars since 2o03.

The orbiter’s MARSIS (MARS Advanced Radar for Subscription and Ionosphere Sounding) instrument, which researchers at the 2018 discovery shoots radio waves over the surface of Mars, to quantify the amount of liquid deposits deposited by hard materials such as rock and ice. To be detected

The reflected radar signal is different from the liquid – in this case, a bright white spot is visible from the surrounding rock and ice. (This is the same technique that has helped scientists find water under large glaciers on Earth.)

Orosei and his team studied 134 observations collected by MARSIS between 2012 and 2019. (One of the reasons for the 2018 findings was so controversial that the team relied on only 29 MARSIS comments collected between 2012 and 2015.)

Nevertheless, more research is needed. Fortunately, three missions are headed for the red planet. China’s Tiawen-1 mission, for example, is an orbiter equipped with radar equipment that can help pinpoint whether liquid water is actually churning below the surface of Mars.

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