Scientists Want To Be Sure There's An Underground Lake On Mars

29 July, 2018, 03:41 | Author: Dwayne Harmon
  • Large Liquid Water Lake Just Discovered Beneath the Surface of Mars

Despite having a temperature between -103 and -3°C, the water remains liquid, possibly due to dissolved salts and the pressure of the 1.5km-deep ice sheet covering it.

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

"We discovered water on Mars", says Roberto Orosei, a researcher with the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF).

But researchers are excited about the potential for future finds, because if liquid water could be found at Mars's south pole, it might be elsewhere too. The depth of the water is not known.

The discovery was made by the European Space Agency (ESA) using radar data collected during their Mars Express mission.

The European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter spotted the reservoir, which is buried approximately 1 mile beneath ice near the planet's south pole, per a Guardian report.

MARSIS "then measures how the radio waves propagate and reflect back to the spacecraft", said the study.

The body of water is about 20 kilometres across and, if confirmed, would be the first evidence of permanent water on the Red Planet.

"Quantitative analysis of the radar signals shows that this bright feature has high relative dielectric permittivity (electrical polarisation) matching that of water-bearing materials".

"The shift from "warm and wet" to "frozen wasteland" would have occurred very, very slowly, giving any life that got started on Mars plenty of time to adapt and to move with the water". The process requires a detailed understanding of the radar signals that were transmitted downward toward Mars by Mars Express.

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Either way, the discovery greatly increases the chances of extraterrestrial life existing on Mars.

Alan Duffy, an astronomer from Swinburne University and the lead scientist of Australia's Science Channel, said: "This is a stunning result that suggests water on Mars is not a temporary trickle like previous discoveries but a persistent body of water that provides the conditions for life for extended periods of time".

Billions of years ago, Mars is thought to have had oceans and rivers, much like Earth.

It has always been suspected that the Red Planet is not as dry and arid as it looks. Still, this doesn't mean life couldn't exist within the lake.

Researchers said the lake looked similar to the ones found beneath the Antartic and Greenland.

Last week data were released revealing that there are organic molecules on Mars.

"This really qualifies this as a body of water".

"That water could be sourced from asteroids, the moon, or Mars. A lake, not some kind of meltwater filling some space between rock and ice, as happens in certain glaciers on Earth", Prof Orosei added.

"This is certainly not a very pleasant environment for life", he said.

"There are single-celled organisms that survive in such an environment with a metabolism that makes use of the salt", said the professor.

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