A 13-member team of scientists has found multiple liquid bodies under the south pole of Mars. The findings, indicated in a new study, complement the 2018 discovery of a bigger saltwater lake in the area.
The new study, now published in Nature Astronomy, is based on the data obtained from MARSIS – Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding, onboard the Mars Express spacecraft orbiting Mars.
For the discovery of the water bodies on Mars, the scientists used the same techniques as used with Earth satellites to study the lakes beneath Antarctic glaciers. The technique enabled them to find a huge array around the 2018 water body that the team had found on Mars. The data from MARSIS helped them confirm that it was liquid.
Led by Elena Pettinelli and Sebastian Emanuel Lauro of the Roma Tre University and Roberto Orosei of the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) the team of scientists was able to find multiple patches around the main water body. These bodies were found to be separated by dry areas, making up a patchwork of salty lakes.
“Not only did we confirm the position, extent and strength of the reflector from our 2018 study” said Professor Pettinelli, “but we found three new bright areas.”
“The main lake is surrounded by smaller bodies of liquid water, but because of the technical characteristics of the radar, and of its distance from the Martian surface, we cannot conclusively determine whether they are interconnected,” she further added in a statement.
The Mars water discovery
The findings were enabled by MARSIS, which is able to send radar pulses to penetrate the surface of a planet. Once these pulses bounce back from beneath the surface or ice caps, they are measured by the spacecraft. The measurements then indicate what is hidden beneath the surface of a terrain.
With the recent data on the MARSIS, scientists point out that the water bodies on the south pole of Mars seem to be “hypersaline solutions.” Such solutions contain high concentrations of salt in water. This is possibly the reason why the water bodies are able to stay liquid despite the extremely cold conditions of Mars’s south pole.
In their study, scientists also highlight that the presence of such a considerable number of water bodies means that they formed quite easily. Such a presence hints that the planet might have had such water bodies throughout its history.
The finding also raises the possibility of an alien life dwelling in the subsystem at some point in time. Since the life forms known to humankind need water to survive, the area might be the best chance of having an alien encounter on the red planet.