CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) – A network of salt ponds could bubble beneath Mars’ South Pole along a large underground lake, increasing the prospect of small Martian life.
Italian scientists reported their findings on Monday, two years after identifying what they believed was a large buried lake. They expanded their coverage area by a couple of hundred miles, using even more data from a radar sounder on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter.
In the latest study in the journal Nature Astronomy, scientists provide further evidence for this salty underground lake, estimated to be 1
Even more tempting, they also identified three smaller bodies of water surrounding the lake. These ponds appear to be of various sizes and are separated from the main lake.
About 4 billion years ago, Mars was hot and humid, like Earth. But the red planet eventually transformed into the barren, barren world that remains today.
The research team led by Sebastian Emanuel Lauro of the Roma Tre University used a method similar to that used on Earth to detect buried lakes in the Antarctic and Canadian Arctic. They based their results on more than 100 Mars Express radar observations from 2010 to 2019; the spacecraft was launched in 2003.
All of this potential water increases the possibility of microbial life on – or within – Mars. High concentrations of salt are likely to prevent water from freezing in this frigid place, the scientists noted. The surface temperature at the South Pole is estimated to be minus 172 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 113 degrees Celsius) and gradually gets warmer with depth.
These water bodies are potentially biologically interesting and “future missions to Mars should target this region,” the researchers wrote.
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