Sci-tech

Mars Express Just Discovered a Subsurface Liquid Water Lake on Mars

Mars Express Just Discovered a Subsurface Liquid Water Lake on Mars

It's a discovery that adds to the speculation that there could once have been life on Mars, and raises the possibility that it might be there still today, since liquid water is an essential ingredient for life.

Now, the big question for a lot of people will be: If this probe is so old... why are we just now figuring this out?

The Planum Australe lake may not be the only sub-surface body of water on Mars, but MARSIS is limited by its spatial resolution, which would prevent it from finding bodies of water smaller than the Planum Australe lake.

Researchers have finally found the evidence they've been looking for - a body of water on Mars.

Mars may have liquid water-a huge lake nestled under the ice cap at the planet's southern pole, researchers report today (July 25) in Science. The study area is highlighted using a THEMIS IR image mosaic. That reflection is particularly strong at interfaces with liquid water, and shows up as a distinctively bright spot in visualizations of the data. Credit: USGS ASTROGEOLOGY SCIENCE CENTER, ARIZONA STATE UN.

There is another satellite orbiting Mars right now, but it hasn't detected what MARSIS did.

The lake, believed to be minus-90 degrees Fahrenheit, is similar to what lies beneath the ice cap in Greenland and the Antarctic.

ESA's ExoMars rover, due for launch in 2020, will be equipped with a drill that can go 6 feet (2 meters) beneath the Red Planet's surface.

Stofan says the water in the Martian underground lake is probably salty, otherwise if would freeze solid, even deep in the ground.

Although the temperature is expected to be below the freezing point of pure water, Orosei noted that dissolved salts of magnesium, calcium, and sodium - known to be present in Martian rocks - could be dissolved in the water to form a brine.

Much like our own ice sheets, the polar ice caps change depending on the climate and act as archives for what has happened in the past.

So, how did MARSIS find this lake?

More news: North Korea's Kim Jong Un says soldiers' diets should be improved

The tool is called the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS), and was created to find subsurface water by sending radar pulses that penetrate the surface and ice caps.

"So, if there's a boundary between air and ice, or ice and dust, or ice and water, we get a reflection back", Stuurman said.

"Caution needs to be exercised, however, as the concentration of salts needed to keep the water liquid could be fatal for any microbial life similar to Earth's". He and his colleagues plan to review the data from Mars Express. The radar cross section has been tilted 90°.

However, the presence of liquid water does not necessarily mean this region of Mars is habitable.

"What the paper found is a region in the south polar layered deposits with unusually high reflective properties", Stuurman explained.

It was 31 years ago that a study first hypothesized the presence of liquid water at the base of Martian polar caps.

There is, and probably will continue to be, debate about the findings of this paper, simply because the implications of this discovery are enormous.

The latest observations reveal something remarkable: a salty lake buried deep beneath the ice, which seems to be a permanent feature rather than a transient phenomenon. Researchers have also likened the discovery to Antarctica's Lake Vostok.

It's the first time that a stable body of liquid water has been found on the planet.

The discovery has raised a possibility that life may be there on Mars in some form.

To know for certain if this lake actually exists is not going to be easy, Orosei says.

"It will require flying a robot there which is capable of drilling through 1.5km of ice".


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