CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) – A network of saltwater can bubble beneath the South Pole of Mars, along with a large underground lake that increases the prospect of tiny, floating Martian life.
Italian scientists announced their findings on Monday, two years after identifying what they believe is a large buried lake. They have expanded their coverage area by several hundred miles, using even more radar data from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter.
In the latest study, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, scientists provide additional evidence for this salty underground lake, which is estimated at 1
Even more painful is that they have identified three smaller bodies of water surrounding the lake. These lakes appear to be of different sizes and separate from the main lake.
Approximately 4 billion years ago, Mars was as warm and wet as Earth. But the red planet eventually became the barren, dry world that remains today.
The research team, led by Sebastian Emanuel Lauro of Roma Tre University, uses a method similar to that used on Earth to find buried lakes in Antarctica and the Canadian Arctic. They base their findings on more than 100 Mars Express radar observations from 2010 to 2019; the spacecraft was launched in 2003.
All this potential water raises the possibility of microbial life on – or inside – Mars. High concentrations of salt probably protect the water from freezing in this cold place, scientists note. The surface temperature of the South Pole is calculated minus 172 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 113 degrees Celsius) and gradually warms to depth.
These water bodies are potentially biologically interesting, and “future Mars missions should be targeted at this region,” the researchers wrote.
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