Scientists have revealed the possibility of salt ponds and a large underground lake lurking beneath the South Pole of Mars. Could it be teeming with Martian life? Italian scientists believe it is possible.
In a new study, a team of researchers reported the findings that followed the discovery of a large underground lake, detected two years ago. Since then, the team has extended the search area by hundreds of kilometers and used 9 years of radar data (2010-2019) from the European Space Agency. Mars Express Orbiter.
The team led by Sebastian Emanuel Lauro of the University of Roma Tre used a radar technique that was used on Earth to find lakes deep under Antarctica and the Canadian Arctic. Called Mars advanced radar for subsoil and ionosphere sounding (MARSIS), the method relies on sound waves bouncing off different materials on a planet’s surface to indicate what kind of object it might be – rock, ice, etc., such as reports Nature.
The results further support the existence of a lake about a mile below the ice at the South Pole. While the previous research on the lake was based on 29 observations, the new study relied on a dataset that included 134 more recent observations.
The lake is about 12 to 18 miles in diameter, scientists suggest. Next to the lake, researchers detected three other bodies of water – possible smaller ponds, each more than a mile wide. Overall, the area with potential water is about 29,000 square miles, or about one-fifth the size of Germany.
“We identified the same body of water, but we also found three other bodies of water around the main one”, Explain the planetologist co-author of the article, Elena Pettinelli of the University of Rome, adding: “It is a complex system.”
The presence of so much water on Mars offers tantalizing speculation about the potential microbial life that could live there. The salt content of the lake probably keeps the icy water from freezing. It is estimated to be as low as 172 degrees Fahrenheit (-113 degrees Celsius) on the surface of the South Pole of Mars.
Future missions should target this area for further investigation.