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Might There Be Underground Lakes on Mars’s Southern Pole?

The bright white region of this image shows the icy cap that covers Mars’ south pole, composed of frozen water and frozen carbon dioxide. ESA’s Mars Express imaged this area of Mars on Dec. 17, 2012, in infrared, green and blue light, using its High Resolution Stereo Camera.
The intense white area of this picture reveals the icy cap that covers Mars’ south pole, composed of frozen water and frozen carbon dioxide. ESA’s Mars Specific imaged this space of Mars on Dec. 17, 2012, in infrared, inexperienced, and blue mild, utilizing its Excessive Decision Stereo Digicam. ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/Invoice Dunford

The query of the best way to entry water on Mars is a giant one if we ultimately need to send a crewed mission there. So far as we will inform, Mars doesn’t have liquid water on its floor now, but it surely does have giant quantities of ice at its poles in addition to subsurface ice in different areas. Finding precisely the place this subsurface ice is and the way accessible it’s is a serious query to be answered by the upcoming Mars Ice Mapper mission.

Now, a brand new examine utilizing information from an orbiter means that there may very well be giant subsurface ‘lakes’ on Mars, though how there may very well be liquid water in such a chilly atmosphere stays unclear.

Researchers used information from Mars Specific, the European Area Company’s orbiter which makes use of radar in addition to a high-definition digicam to picture the planet. The radar information reveals alerts across the south pole which suggests the presence of underground lakes. This idea was first floated in 2018, when completely different researchers used information from the identical orbiter to find the primary lake. This new examine has discovered dozens of comparable alerts.

Nonetheless, Mars will get very chilly and this far south, it’s considered too chilly for water to stay in its liquid kind. So it’s not clear the best way to clarify the radar alerts.

“We’re not sure whether or not these alerts are liquid water or not, however they seem like rather more widespread than what the unique paper discovered,” said Jeffrey Plaut of JPL, co-principal investigator of the orbiter’s MARSIS (Mars Superior Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding) instrument. “Both liquid water is frequent beneath Mars’ south pole or these alerts are indicative of one thing else.”

A number of the alerts discovered lower than a mile from the floor, the place the estimated temperature can be minus 81 levels Fahrenheit (minus 63 levels Celsius). At that temperature, the water can be frozen even when it contained salts which decrease its freezing temperature. There’s a risk that underground volcanic activity might increase the temperature sufficient to maintain water liquid, though this sort of exercise hasn’t but been recognized within the space.

“They discovered that it will take double the estimated Martian geothermal warmth movement to maintain this water liquid,” stated Aditya Khuller, co-author of the paper. “One attainable approach to get this quantity of warmth is thru volcanism. Nonetheless, we haven’t actually seen any sturdy proof for latest volcanism on the south pole, so it appears unlikely that volcanic exercise would permit subsurface liquid water to be current all through this area.”

The analysis is revealed within the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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