Mars Express Detects Liquid Water Under Mars' South Pole
Mars Express Detects Liquid Water Under Mars' South Pole
Game Changer’ Scientists Say Liquid Water Found on Mars AFP 25 Jul 2018
26 July, 2018, 15:44
The water is likely to be below the freezing point for water (32°F or 0°C) given its location beneath the ice cap, but the presence of minerals such as magnesium, calcium and sodium perchlorate in the soil of the northern plains of Mars, "support the presence of liquid water at the base of the polar deposits".
Higher frequency radar pulses are not able to penetrate deep enough to detect the boundary between ice and liquid beneath the polar cap, and so SHARAD has been unable to detect this lake.
Stofan says the water in the Martian underground lake is probably salty, otherwise if would freeze solid, even deep in the ground.
Mars long ago was warmer and wetter, possessing significant bodies of water, as evidenced by dry lake beds and river valleys on its surface.
Almost 4.5 billion years ago, Mars had six and a half times as much water as it does now and a thicker atmosphere.
Between May 2012 and December 2015, Dr. Cicchetti and colleagues used MARSIS to survey a region called Planum Australe, located in the southern ice cap of Mars. So while a layer of ice and a layer of rock may both be weakly reflective, the boundary that occurs when ice sits on top of rocks will create a strong reflection that can be detected by an orbiting radar.
What is believed to be liquid water is sitting below Mars' southern polar ice cap and is described as a "well-defined, 20-kilometer-wide zone".
Experts suspect there has been water on Mars for around 4bn years - and it might contain hints of life from that time. Orosei estimated the water temperature at somewhere between 14 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 10 degrees Celsius) and minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70 degrees Celsius). Life has been found in the poisonous, arsenic-rich waters of Lake Mono, California.
Still, he said, "Having a stable body of liquid water today is very intriguing and worthy of study". When the team of scientists analyzed the data, they discovered a "very sharp change" in the signals, which resembled the signal of water hidden under the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland. Orbiters have also revealed huge glaciers residing just under the surface, potentially accessible to any future explorers or even colonists that go there in the future.
The discovery has raised a possibility that life may be there on Mars in some form.
Water, of course, is a prerequisite for life as we know it.
While its existence provides a tantalising prospect for those interested in the possibility of past or present life on Mars, the lake's characteristics must first be verified by further research. MARSIS is a low-frequency radar and altimeter that features operation altitudes up to 800 km above the Martian surface for subsurface sounding and up to 1200 km for ionospheric sounding.
Then, they were reflected back to the radar aboard the Mars Express, providing geological information on the portion of planet under examination. It will require flying a robot there, which is capable of drilling through 1.5 kilometers of ice.
"We have long since known that the surface of Mars is inhospitable to life as we know it, so the search for life on Mars is now in the subsurface", Manish Patel from the Open University said.
"Even with those limitations, we've now found that there is likely to be liquid water in the Martian subsurface", Stamenkovic said. "Drilling 1.5km beneath the surface of another planet is hard", says Coates.
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