Buried lakes discovered on Mars

Midway through September, researchers announced they had possibly discovered signs of life on Venus and now we have some news about Mars.

Two years ago scientists discovered a saltwater lake under the Martian South Pole and this week using radar data from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express Orbiter were able to identify other bodies of water.

The Mars Express Orbiter contains a radar instrument called the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding or simply, MARSIS.

The radar emits radio waves which bounce off of the surface and subsurface of Mars. The reflection of the signal is then analysed and researchers can determine material has reflected the radio waves.

Using this radar, the researchers were able to find three lakes, with the largest approximately 30km wide.

“We identified the same body of water [that was discovered in 2018], but we also found three other bodies of water around the main one,” explained one of the research paper’s co-authors, a planetary scientist at the University of Rome, Elena Pettinelli.

“It’s a complex system,” the scientist added.

The question, however, is what these lakes contain?

As Nature points out, the surface pressure on Mars makes liquid water impossible, but below the surface things might be different.

Should the lakes contain saltwater, the lakes may be liquid but that poses yet another problem as the amount of salt thought to keep water on Mars liquid, even below the surface, might pose a problem for any sort of life.

Of course, there could be organisms on Mars that thrive in salt water.

This discovery has renewed hopes that researchers will find signs of life on Mars.

In addition, a Chinese mission – Tianwen-1 – will arrive in Mars’ orbit in February 2021. The orbiter will be deploying a rover and carries a suite of instruments which can be used to observe the Red Planet. The hope is that Tianwen-1 can further the research done with the Mars Express Orbiter.

“There may have been a lot of water on Mars. And if there was water, there was the possibility of life,” Pettinelli concluded.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]


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