Breaking: Hidden Lakes Has Been Found Under The Surface of Mars

An international group of researchers, including scientists from Queensland, has confirmed there are multiple salty lakes hidden under the surface of the south pole of Mars, giving hope to the idea that life could still be found on the red planet.


The scientists have been analyzing data from the Mars Express spacecraft, which was launched by the European Space Agency in 2003 and which has been conducting scientific measurements of the Martian surface since 2004.


In 2018 the group discovered at least one body of liquid water buried under the south polar ice cap and were trying to confirm the finding.


One of the researchers, Graziella Caprarelli from the University of Southern Queensland’s Centre for Astrophysics, said they not only confirmed the initial finding but found three other hidden salt lakes.


"So there are in total four lakes, if we can call them that, that we can see under the south polar ice," she said.


Dr. Caprarelli said the discovery of more lakes under the Martian ice meant they could all but rule out geothermal causes for the liquid water, leaving extreme salinity as the most likely explanation.


"We know that salt lowers the freezing temperature of water, and we see this phenomenon on Earth in some places, where water forms inside ice sheets," she said.

"It had been hypothesized that the geothermal activity is higher in that area than in other parts of Mars but to date there is really no evidence for that."


The "hypersaline" lakes are located about 1.5 kilometers below the surface of the polar ice sheet, with the research team identifying them using radar imaging, one of the capabilities of the Mars Express orbiter.


"We borrowed a methodology commonly used in radar sounder investigations of subglacial lakes in Antarctica, Canada and Greenland, and we adapted the method to analyze old and new [radar] data," Roma Tre University's Sebastian Lauro said.

"The interpretation that best reconciles all the available evidence is that the high intensity reflections are coming from extended pools of liquid water."


There are currently a number of rovers on the Martian surface, but most land near the planet’s equator, where the atmosphere is thicker and allows a soft landing, meaning there has not been a lot of surface exploration of the polar regions of the planet.


NASA’s Mars 2020 mission is on its way to the planet, carrying the Perseverance rover and the Ingenuity helicopter drone to look for signs of ancient life in what are believed to be ancient lake beds.


But Dr. Caprarelli said it could be under the planet’s polar ice caps that life could eventually be found.


"It’s been demonstrated that on Earth there are micro-organisms that live in hypersaline environments," she said.

"There could be life [in the Martian lakes], we don't know, but if we compare it to conditions on Earth, we have to start thinking maybe living conditions are a little bit broader than we think.

"So this opens up a lot of questions about how we go about looking for life in the universe."


The findings have been published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

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