Liquid water 'lake' is discovered on Mars

Liquid water 'lake' is discovered on Mars”

Depending on where and how you look, you can find plenty of water on Mars. It also opens up the possibility that it is a reservoir not just of water, but of life.

The team also suspects that while they have only found evidence for water at one location, it probably isn't the only subglacial lake on Mars.

All of that water is either locked up in solid form, however, or locked away in the distant past.

"This subsurface anomaly on Mars has radar properties matching water or water-rich sediments", Roberto Orosei, principal investigator of the MARSIS experiment and lead author of the paper, said in a press release. Apparently, the discovery was made using Marsis (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding), a radar instrument that is used by scientist to study beneath a planet's surface. Adding salt-and we've found lots of evidence of salt on Mars-can lower the freezing point of water by turning it into a brine. The study area is highlighted using a THEMIS IR image mosaic.

Those pulses reflected 29 sets of radar samples that created a map of drastic change in signal nearly a mile below the surface. USGS Astrogeology Science Center, Arizona State University, ESA, INAF.

Mars' southern polar ice cap has a thickness of about 3,000 metres, reports NASA in an unrelated study, it is similar to the northern one and spreads about 400 km and it is elevated about 6 km higher than Martian sea level. There are hundreds of this of subglacial lake on Earth, mostly in Antarctica.

The lake, believed to be minus-90 degrees Fahrenheit, is similar to what lies beneath the ice cap in Greenland and the Antarctic. This keeps the lake at just below freezing temperatures, and it maintains a liquid state due to the huge weight of the ice above pressing down on it.

Located under a layer of Martian ice, the lake is about 20 kilometers (12 miles) wide, said the report led by Italian researchers in the U.S. journal Science.

"This water would be extremely cold, right at the point where it's about to freeze".

So, how did MARSIS find this lake?

Scott Hubbard, a professor of astronautics at Stanford University who served as NASA's first Mars program director in 2000, called it "tremendously exciting".

However, the planet's climate has since cooled due to its thin atmosphere, leaving most of its water locked up in ice. This is the first spectral detection that unambiguously supports our liquid water-formation hypotheses for RSL.

Artistic impression of the Mars Express spacecraft probing Mars and of Planum Australe. A radar cross section of the southern polar layered deposits is shown as a detail. The process requires a detailed understanding of the radar signals that were transmitted downward toward Mars by Mars Express. MARSIS sends electromagnetic pulses down to the planet and measures how they echo back - and Orosei and colleagues discovered especially bright reflections from a broad region spanning about 12 miles, about a mile below the ice. With the stunning findings, that debate is likely to be put to bed.

"Even with those limitations, we've now found that there is likely to be liquid water in the Martian subsurface", Stamenkovic said.

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