A hidden subsurface lake has been found on Mars

A lake has been found hidden beneath the surface on Mars

Italian astronomers have reported the discovery of a large reservoir of salty liquid water, whichore appears to lurk deep beneath the ice near Mars’ south pole. If the discovery is confirmed, it will be the first irrefutable proofod on the existence of liquid water on the Red Planet. It also indicatesowka for researchers where they can look for signs of Martian life.

– This is a very promising place to look for life on Mars – mowi Roberto Orosei, a researcher at the National Institute of Astrophysics in Bologna. Microbes living there have been found in similar subglacial lakes on Earth (the largest is Lake Vostok in Antarctica).

Teamoł Italian researchers led by Orosei have spotted traces of a subsurface lake in radar data from the European Space Agency‘s (ESA) Mars Express probe. A publication on the subject appeared today in the pages of the magazine „Science”.

The scientific community has received the Orosei team’s revelations with moderate optimism. Scientists note that more evidence is neededoin, but if further research confirms the existence of the lake, it could open up new opportunities to explore Mars. The discovery could change the wayob thinking of scientistsow o exploration of the Red Planet.

Scientists believe that billions of years ago, when Mars had a thick atmosphere and was a warmer and wetter planet, water flowed over its surface gouging gullies and canyons, whichore are visible so far. Currently, water on the Red Planet is found in the form of ice in the polar caps at the planet’s poles and below its surface. Probes orbiting wokoł planets have spotted traces of ice in many places – albeit on steep slopes, ktorich appearance changes with the onset of the Martian spring, as if molten lod dripped in the doł and left dark traces.

Orosei and his colleagues found the underground lake using the MARSIS (Sub-Surface Sounding Radar Altimeter) radar instrument aboard the Mars Express probe. The instrument is used to study structures beneath the Martian surface to a depth of several kilometersow. Radio waves bounce off the surface and subsurface layers, and the wayob how the radar signal reflects reveals the type of material thatory located there – For example, the rock, lod or water.

Researchers admitted that observations were difficult. Instrument sometimes saw a bright reflection in several places, whichore did not reappear when the probe flew over these areas. Suspecting the probe’s onboard computer of vastly oversimplifying data in 2012, scientists decided that MARSIS would send raw data back to Earth, rather than perform automatic processing on the spot. – This decision changed everything. Bright reflections were easy to see – admitted Orosei.

The radar has recorded interesting reflections coming from a 20-kilometer zone in a region called Planum Australe. After ruling out other possible explanations, such as frozen carbon dioxide, the scientists concluded that the reflections came from wod subsurface.

Radar tracks on Mars’ Planum Australe show the location of the underground lake, phot. USGS Astrogeology Science Center, Arizona State University, INAF

The lake is located about 1.5 kilometers below the surface of Mars, is at least 1 meter deep and extends 20 kilometersow. The water must be salty because it didn’t freeze. Perhaps the lake is similar to the subglacial salt lakes discovered in the Canadian Arctic (Devon Island) earlier this year. The rocky substrate containing salts beneath Canadian lakes allows water to remain in a liquid state.

In 2008, at the bottom of dried-up watercoursesoIn water near pohe northern polar cap on the Red Planet, probnik Phoenix, and later also the Curiosity rover, discovered the presence of perchlorateow – salt, ktore may be responsible for producing salt lakes. Mars mohead to have many similar lakes in the past, when heat rising from deep within the planet melted some of the ice covering its polar regions.

With liquid water and the right chemical elements needed to provide energy, a subsurface Martian lake may be able to support life. While it’s too far-fetched a conclusion, especially since the existence of the lake has yet to be confirmed, such suggestions are bound to occur. As long as the lake is not too salty.

Exploring the lake will not be easy. John Priscu of Montana State University in Bozeman, whichory this year intends to drill into Antarctica’s subglacial Lake Mercer admitted that he had to bring tons of equipment and fuel to the remote area to complete the task. It required weeks of work. – There’s no chance you’ll get it all to Mars – admitted. Scientists will have to come up with another wayob to get there.

Orosei admitted that his compositeoł has spotted bright reflections in other areas of the planet as well, but is not yet ready to confirm that these are similar lakes.