Time to get excited, people. After years of searching space, wondering what’s out there and teasing us with theories and possibilities, scientists have just made a massive breakthrough.
A huge lake has been found. On Mars. There is officially water on Mars. Which means, dare I say… is there life on Mars?
The vast body of water was found underneath Mars’ southern pole, and is 20km wide, according to the Independent.
The exciting discovery was found by scientists using the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) instrument on the Mars Express spacecraft. The instrument sends out radar pulses that penetrate the planet’s surface.
The team of scientists, led by Roberto Orosei examined the data the MARSIS recorded between May 2012 and December 2015, and found that there was a very sharp change in the radar signals in an area roughly 1.5km beneath the surface of the planet.
The data recorded is apparently similar to the lakes of liquid water found beneath the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets on Earth.
And, what’s more exciting, scientists have suggested that microbial life can live in those extreme conditions – which means life might be living in the water found on Mars.
The temperature on Mars is even colder than it is in the Antarctic or Greenland, however, making the discovery of liquid water – rather than frozen – even more surprising.
We took two steps forward in the search for life on Mars! Our Curiosity Mars rover detected “tough” organic molecules in 3-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface of Mars AND found seasonal variations in methane levels in the atmosphere. These two discoveries increase the chances that the record of habitability and potential life has been preserved on the Red Planet and are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface. Seen here is a view from the "Kimberley" formation on Mars taken by the Curiosity rover. The colors are adjusted so that rocks look approximately as they would if they were on Earth, to help geologists interpret the rocks. This "white balancing" to adjust for the lighting on Mars overly compensates for the absence of blue on Mars, making the sky appear light blue and sometimes giving dark, black rocks a blue cast. Taken by the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on Curiosity, this view is from the 580th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. The rover landed on the Red Planet in August 2012 and has traveled more than 11.84 miles (19.06 kilometers) in that time. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS #nasa #space #mars #redplanet #curiosity #rover #spacecraft #mountsharp #planet #solarsystem #life #search #science #rocks #explore #sol #day #picoftheday #pictureoftheday
Alan Duffy, an astronomer from Swinburne University and lead scientist of Australia’s Science Channel, said:
This is a stunning result that suggests water on Mars is not a temporary trickle like previous discoveries but a persistent body of water that provides the conditions for life for extended periods of time.
However, if you’re picturing yourself taking a refreshing dip in the red planet’s cool new lake sometime soon, you might want to think again.
Unfortunately, the liquid is most likely to be a a ‘briny sludge’. The salt that makes the brine is also most likely to be the reason the water hasn’t frozen.
Scientists have also said that there is nothing particularly special about the area in which the lake is found, which means similar lakes and bodies and water could be found in parts of the planet.
Mars is infamous for intense dust storms. Right now, a massive Martian dust storm is affecting operations of our Opportunity rover. This storm is already one of the most intense ever observed on the Red Planet. The storm, which was first detected by our Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on May 30, has grown to cover more than 15.8 million square miles (41 million square kilometers) as of June 10 – an area about the size of North America and Russia combined. It has blocked out so much sunlight, it has effectively turned day into night for Opportunity, which is located near the center of the storm, inside Mars' Perseverance Valley. These two views from our Mars Curiosity rover, acquired specifically to measure the amount of dust inside Gale Crater, show that dust has increased over three days from a major Martian dust storm. In the first image, we see a view of the east-northeast rim of Gale Crater on June 10, 2018 (Sol 2077). Swipe to see a view of the same feature on June 7, 2018 (Sol 2074), three days earlier. The images were taken by the rover's Mastcam. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS #nasa #space #mars #redplanet #curiosity #rover #opportunity #marsrovers #spacecraft #planet #solarsystem #science #rocks #explore #sol #day #duststorm #marsstorm #storm #dust
So who’s going to be the first human to reach the red planet? No, not Matt Damon, but potentially a 17-year-old girl from Baton Rouge, Louisianna.
Alyssa Carson plans to set off for Mars in 2033, when she will be 32, and is already dedicating her life to the mission.
Although she’s unable to apply to be an astronaut until she turns 18, she’s been going to space camps since she was seven years old.
Alyssa already undergoes training all across the globe, learning fascinating subjects such as microgravity and underwater training, which will help her with her future mission.
Perhaps Alyssa will be the first to take a dip in Mars’ great lakes! Find out more about her over here.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.