Published: Thu, July 26, 2018
Research | By Derrick Holloway

Guys, They've Actually Found Real Water On Mars

Guys, They've Actually Found Real Water On Mars

The first large, stable mass of liquid water had been detected on Mars - boosting the chance of one day finding life on the planet.

Richard Zurek, the chief scientist in the Mars program office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said the complex, nearly chaotic structure of the ice caps could affect the radar signals in unexpected ways.

Located at the edge of a more than three-billion-year-old ice cap covering Mars's south pole, the region known as Planum Australe would rank high on any list of the Red Planet's least-interesting locales.

Much more work needs to be done to confirm that the lake is liquid water, the researchers said, and there is no evidence yet that life exists in the lake. InSight is also the first mission dedicated exclusively to learning more about the planet's interior in an attempt to glean clues about how rocky terrestrial planets like Earth formed during the birth of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.

A study published on Wednesday in the journal Science has confirmed that liquid water is present on Mars. Deep beneath the surface, however, the weight of overlying soil and glaciers - as well as the potential presence of dissolved salts - could allow water to stay liquid even at what would otherwise be below-freezing temperatures.

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An underground salt-laden lake has been found on Mars, according to Italian researchers.

"For water to exist under the surface it has to be deep and really salty, and that last part is significant because that is exactly the type of place you go look for lifeforms". The water was detected by radar and is situated below the southern polar ice cap of the red planet. Orbiters have also revealed enormous glaciers residing just under the surface, potentially accessible to any future explorers or even colonists that go there in the future. It therefore remains an open question whether the water is warm enough for life; perhaps Martian extremophiles are even more extreme than their cold weather terrestrial counterparts.

But also, the more hard it is to, because laws of planetary protection state that we can not send any craft from Earth near a potential site of life for fear of contamination. "But analogous environments like Lake Vostok show us that such habitats can host hardy microbial life".

The lake was found with a radar instrument called Marsis on board the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter which arrived at March in 2003.

Radar instruments like Marsis examine the surface and immediate subsurface of the planet by sending out a signal and examining what is bounced back.

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It has always been suspected that the Red Planet is not as dry and arid as it looks. "The normal interpretation would be we have discovered a subglacial lake and people would drill and find if that's true", Orosei said.

Orosei said the scientists checked other possible explanations, like carbon dioxide ice, for the bright reflections, but those did not match the radar observations. Water survives frozen in polar ice caps and in subsurface ice deposits.

In May, NASA launched another spacecraft, the InSight Mars lander, which will dig under the surface after it reaches a flat plain just north of the Martian equator in November.

There is no reason to conclude that the presence of subsurface water on Mars is limited to a single location.

"It will require flying a robot there, which is capable of drilling through 1.5 kilometres of ice", he explained.

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