Scientists found a Lake of Liquid Water on Mars

Scientists found a Lake of Liquid Water on Mars

The search for life on Mars goes down to the subsurface level following the discovery of a liquid water lake below the southern polar ice cap.

Human activity is bringing drastic changes to this world and that’s the reason why researchers are looking for other habitable places of the universe. Our neighbor planet, Mars, is probably the most preferred choice in this regard. A number of reasons, like distance, tilt the balance in the favor of the Red Planet. The existence of water in the liquid state is one of the primary conditions that the scientists check while looking for a habitable place and the latest discovery reveals that there is a body of liquid water on Mars. According to the researchers, they have found a 20-km wide reservoir of liquid water beneath the surface of the planet. It resides 1.5 kilometers below the southern polar ice cap of Mars.

It is a common perception that plenty of water existed on the Martian surface in the ancient times but the red planet of our solar system lost most of it. The Curiosity Rover discovered an old streambed which showed that the water did flow, in the liquid form, on this planet. The cooling of its climate converted most of that water into ice which can be found on the surface of Mars these days. It is a pleasant change for the scientists as all their previous efforts have ended either in a no result or with ambiguous findings. The researchers of the study mentioned that the size of this water body is not very large. Roberto Orosei, the Lead Author of the study from the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics said,

It’s probably not a very large lake. This really qualifies this as a body of water. A lake, not some kind of melt-water filling some space between rock and ice, as happens in certain glaciers on Earth.

The data from Marsis, a radar on the Mars Express Orbiter of the European Space Agency, was used for making this revolutionary discovery. The working mechanism of this instrument revolves around the examination of signals that are sent to the surface and immediate subsurface of the planet. It analyzes the returning signals to determine the composition of the surface. Initially, Marsis found a filo pastry-like accumulation of ice and dust which is commonly known as the South Polar Layered Deposit. What surprised the researchers was the fact that there was much more than that at the depth of just 1.5 kilometers. Orosei mentioned that in the following words:

In light blue you can see where the reflections from the bottom are stronger than surface reflection. This is something that is to us the tell-tale sign of the presence of water.

No one can refute the importance of this discovery but a lot of verification is needed before arriving at any conclusions. Dr. Matt Balme from the Open University explained what needs to be done in order to verify the characteristics of this lake. According to him, we need to take identical measurements from other parts of the planet and look for similar signals. At the same time, we should strive to examine all the other explanations and hopefully we will be able to rule out all of them. He also suggested that this finding might trigger a new Mars mission with intentions to drill into this buried water body. Orosei acknowledged that this could be done but it will not be easy by any stretch of imagination. He indicated that by saying,

Getting there and acquiring the final evidence that this is indeed a lake will not be an easy task. It will require flying a robot there which is capable of drilling through 1.5km of ice. This will certainly require some technological developments that at the moment are not available.

Despite this massive indication, there is nothing definitive about the existence of life on the red planet. According to the researching team, the presence of liquid water at such extreme temperatures (-10 o C to -30o C) means that it will be a concentrated brine which is not ideal for life at all. Dr. Claire Cousins, an Astrobiologist from the University of St. Andrews mentioned that in the following words:

It’s plausible that the water may be an extremely cold, concentrated brine, which would be pretty challenging for life.

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