Discovering ancient underground lakes on Mars

This beautiful European Space Agency image of Mars’ surface is titled Cappuccino as it orbits at the south pole of Mars.

ESA / DLR / FU Berlin / Bill Dunford

Make sure to pack some arm rafts and a really great exercise when you travel to Mars. There could be a whole world of ponds filled with water hidden under the planet’s dry, dusty southern ice sheet.

A new study led by researchers at the University of Rome Tri, Italy, has bolstered A. 2018 Discovery of a lake hidden under Martian polar iceThen the discovery expands to include three new pools.

The researchers used radar data from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter to make the original detection of liquid water.

“Now, taking into account more data and analyzing it in a different way, three new pools have been discovered,” the European Space Agency said in a statement on Monday. The team published its study in Nature Astronomy on Monday.

The lakes seem to lurk beneath a huge layer of ice. The largest lake is about 19 miles (30 kilometers) wide with a series of small ponds surrounding it.

Researchers speculate that the water would have to be incredibly salty to remain liquid at lower temperatures. Separated A 2019 study suggested volcanic activity It may help keep the water from freezing, but the current paper leans heavily on the concept of salt.

“While it is not possible for water to remain stable at the surface today, the new finding opens up the possibility of an entire system of ancient lakes underground, perhaps millions or even billions of years,” the European Space Agency said.

Humans are busy searching for signs of life – especially evidence of ancient microbes – on Mars. NASA’s new Perseverance Vehicle will continue this quest From the surface of the red planet. Liquid water tanks may be a particularly tempting place to seek life, but access to these ponds will be extremely difficult. There’s just one mile (1.5 kilometers) of ice on the way.

We may not have any major answers from Mars’ south pole anytime soon, but it may give us a future goal of exploration once our technology is up to the challenge.

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