Dozens of new “lakes” have been identified beneath Mars’ south pole for the first time in 2018. It remains to be seen whether it is indeed water, and whether it is a liquid or not… and if not, it remains to be identified what it is.
NASA recently made a very exciting announcement in a press release: Researchers scanning the basement of Mars have found what look like dozens of underground lakes! Nothing says we will find life or even liquid water there, but it is certain that they will be able to teach us a lot about the dynamics of the Red Planet’s climate.
It all started with the discovery of stratified deposits at the south pole of the planet. They form a timeless capsule of sorts. Millions of years old material has accumulated there, each floor preserving the previous one. Analyzing these successive layers of dust, water ice and frozen carbon dioxide, conceptually comes down to go back in time. Therefore these geological formations are a real blessing to geologists, exobiologists and all scientists working to unravel the mysteries of Mars. Except that to unearth this treasure, a rude shovel isn’t enough!
radio treasure hunt
However, investigating this area is not easy; It is certainly not the persistence that would be capable of taking samples tens or even hundreds of meters deep. To do this, NASA radio wave field bombing, able to make its way through these layers deposited at the pole. When reflected from the surface, it can return to its source; So we can analyze the return signal to find out which surface has been touched.
Normally, this sign is only partially reflected. But in 2018, NASA researchers noticed a curious anomaly. In some cases, signals returning from depth were paradoxically much more powerful than signals coming from the surface. Perhaps the researchers took their wishes for real; But he inferred from it the presence of liquid water in the basement, as it strongly reflects radio waves. Recent studies, which found many other such abnormalities, are not so clear.
Will you drown or not?
Potential “lakes” are distributed at very variable depths, including areas below -60 °C. At this temperature, it will be difficult for the water to remain liquid. And this even if it contains substances that lower the freezing point. And apparently geothermal flow won’t be of much help either. In 2019, a research team modeled these heat movements. And according to their findings, by and large, these are largely insufficient to allow water to remain in a liquid state. If there are any in this region’s subsurface, it is probably very localized anomalies of geothermal flux, or very specific geochemical conditions.
But on the other hand, if it is not liquid water, how to explain these specific anomalies? What material or composition can they correspond to? The mystery remains unsolved. Anyhow, mapping many other examples of this phenomenon in this way will undoubtedly help identify it. It remains to double your ingenuity to find a technical way to open these surreal chests with so many promising scientific treasures!
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