Now, new research has found further evidence of the lake and has also revealed a number of small salt “ponds” nearby, raising the possibility that there may be life on the Red Planet.
Scientists were able to gather more specific details about the lake – for example, they estimate it to be around 30 by 20 kilometers (1
“The presence of a subglacial lake could have important consequences for astrobiology and the presence of habitable niches on Mars,” adds the statement.
The ponds – which the study describes as “irregular pools of water or smaller wetlands” – vary in size and are separated from the main lake by strips of land.
The discovery is significant because it gives us a better idea of Mars’ climate and chemical composition. For example, the fact that the lake and surrounding ponds are still liquid suggests they are “hypersaline,” the study said, meaning they contain a lot of salts. This lowers the melting point, preventing the water from freezing despite the cold environment, and may have allowed them to “survive for a long period of time on a geological scale.”
And, of course, there is the question of extraterrestrial life.
A study last year suggested that 3 or 4 billion years ago, Mars – now cold and inhospitable – may have been warm enough to harbor torrential rains and running water, which would have created an environment that could support simple life. . When temperatures subsequently dropped, the water would freeze.
The latest research speculates that life on Mars may not just be a thing of the past.
“The possibility of large hypersaline water bodies on Mars is particularly exciting because of the potential for microbial life to exist,” the study said.
If there really is life in these salty waters, it could take different forms. Scientists have speculated that there could be anaerobes – small organisms that don’t need oxygen – or extremophiles, which can survive in conditions of extreme cold or heat.
There may also be aerobes, organisms that require oxygen. Salty brines such as lakes or ponds contain six times the minimum amount of oxygen needed for microbes to breathe, the study says.
“The water bodies at the base of the (south pole stratified deposits) therefore represent areas of potential astrobiological interest and concern for planetary protection,” the study concluded, urging future missions to Mars to target the polar lake region for collect additional data.