Multiple ‘Water Bodies’ Found Under Surface Of Mars
A major new study has found multiple ‘water bodies’ under the south pole of Mars.
The discovery was made using the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS), which is onboard the Mars Express spacecraft sent by the European Space Agency to orbit around the Red Planet.
The findings support a 2018 discovery that saw researchers announce they had found a vast lake beneath the surface of Mars; a revelation that was hailed as a major breakthrough in the search for alien life on the planet.
At the time, the study was questioned as experts wondered whether the research team had gathered enough detail on the nature of the body to know for sure whether it was a body of liquid water.
The new research, led by Elena Pettinelli from Roma Tre University, used techniques borrowed from Earth satellites to study the lakes beneath Antarctic glaciers, which involved bouncing radio waves off a surface and measuring the echoes, looking for changes in the signal to characterise a topography.
Using this technique, scientists were able to analyse data from MARSIS that examined a huge array around the body they had found on Mars. That allowed them to confirm that it was liquid.
Graziella Caparelli, one of the researchers and a planetary scientist of the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, told ScienceAlert:
Some types of material reflect radar signals better than others, and liquid water is one of those ‘materials’.
Therefore, when the signals coming from the subsurface are stronger than those reflected by the surface, we can confirm that we are in the presence of liquid water. Radars are used on Earth (where we can directly verify the results) for the same purpose, so we are certain that the technique is reliable.
During the research, scientists also discovered a number of other wet areas.
The existence of a single subglacial lake could be attributed to ad-hoc conditions such as the presence of a volcano under the ice sheet, or some other situation unique to the specific location where we found the first subglacial lake.
The discovery of an entire system of lakes instead, suggests their formation process to be relatively simple and possibly common.
Given that life as we know it requires water to survive, the findings could key in the search for alien life on the planet.
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