Underground lake with liquid salt water found on Mars

29 July, 2018, 03:42 | Author: Grady King
  • Life on Mars a possibility after discovery of first-ever liquid water lake

Data from NASA's Cassini orbiter, even though the mission ended in 2017, continues to provide researchers with evidence of organics under the ice of Saturn's moon Enceladus, although they can't yet tell if geology or biology produced those organics (Cassini simply wasn't equipped to tell the difference).

The detection was made using the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) instrument on European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft.

Their results suggest that a 12-mile-wide (20 kilometers) reservoir lies under ice that's about a mile (1.5 kilometers) thick.

European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft is depicted in orbit around Mars in artist's concept stereo illustration
European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft is depicted in orbit around Mars in artist's concept stereo illustration

Between May 2012 and December 2015, Roberto Orosei with International Astronomical Union and his Italian colleagues used MARSIS to survey a region called Planum Australe, located in the southern ice cap of Mars.

"On Earth, it's nearly a given that if a ground-penetrating radar spots stronger reflections from the sub-surface than from the surface of the polar ice, then you are seeing liquid water". "This is just one small study area; it is an exciting prospect to think there could be more of these underground pockets of water elsewhere, yet to be discovered", said Orosei and Dmitri Titov, ESA's Mars Express project scientist.

Dissolved salts are thought to keep the water fluid, despite having a temperature below freezing point.

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The presence of water under the Martian polar ice caps has always been suspected but not seen until now, the study said.

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

Despite the obvious excitement surrounding the findings, Mars' surface is "inhospitable to life", according to the Open University's Dr. Manish Patel, and researchers are not any closer to finding life than they were prior to the announcement. The interface between ice and water acts similarly, producing a bright reflection.

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Chevrier said he also wanted to know how old the body of water might be.

Today, a team of Italian scientists announced evidence that Mars has lakes of liquid water under its polar ice caps.

The discovery of liquid water just beneath the surface of Mars confirms a long-suspected theory, but could it hold life? "This condition on Earth happens only when you observe subglacial water, like in Antarctica, over places like Lake Vostok".

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Rebecca Mickol, a former UA graduate student, and Tim Kral, a UA biological sciences professor, wrote about the possibility of certain types of microorganisms surviving and growing on Mars in studies published this year by the academic journal Planetary and Space Science. The researchers said that the lake is about 20km across and at least one metre deep, which apparently qualifies it to be a lake according to the lead researcher.

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