Liquid water ‘lake’ revealed in mars

Jul 29, 2018, 03:40
Liquid water ‘lake’ revealed in mars

The character of the signals even helped the researchers distinguish between water and carbon dioxide ice, an alternate explanation for the radar signals seen by MARSIS over the last 13 years.

To find the water, Italian researchers analysed radar signals collected over three years by the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft.

"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".

The temperature is likely below the freezing point of pure water, but the lake can remain liquid due to the presence of magnesium, calcium and sodium.

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The pulses that came back created the aforementioned "well-defined, 20-kilometer-wide zone" and found that the radar reflected the brightness of the liquid water.

Located under a layer of Martian ice, the lake is about 20km wide, says the report led by Italian researchers in the United States journal Science.

The lake, similar to those beneath the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets on Earth, lies about 1.5 kilometres (0.9 miles) below the surface of a region called Planum Australe, close to the Martian south pole, and stretches out for 20 kilometres. However, the presence of liquid water at the base of Martian polar caps was first hypothesized in a study 31 years ago.

What they believe to be a lake sits beneath the Red Planet's south polar ice cap, and is about 20km across. In comparison, salty ocean water freezes at 28.4 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"In Antarctica the water can exist because the temperatures below the kilometer-thick ice can reach melting point."

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After decades of trying to answer the question of whether Mars has liquid water, scientists appear to have found the answer, and the implications of their discovery could be huge. But there hasn't been evidence of stable bodies of water until now, the researchers said.

In 2015, the appearance of Mars as a desolate, dry, lifeless planet was significantly challenged after a team of researchers announced it had discovered evidence of running liquid water on its surface.

Robert Orosei, who led the new research which has shown that liquid water still exists on Mars in the form of a subglacial lake, noted that studielectric permittivity allowed scientists to locate this body of water.

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

According to the journal Nature, if further studies confirm the existence of a lake, it could open new avenues for investigating Mars.

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