Wednesday, 14 November, 2018

Welcome to Mars-now with a liquid lake!

Game Changer’ Scientists Say Liquid Water Found on Mars			AFP		25 Jul 2018 Game Changer’ Scientists Say Liquid Water Found on Mars AFP 25 Jul 2018
Glenn Montgomery | 26 July, 2018, 16:05

The blue triangle indicates an area of very high reflectivity, interpreted as being caused by the presence of a reservoir of water, about a mile below the surface.

It's tempting to think of this feature as a lake, given that the area with high reflectivity is several kilometers in diameter.

Mars long ago was warmer and wetter, possessing significant bodies of water, as evidenced by dry lake beds and river valleys on its surface.

The study was published Wednesday in the journal "Science".

Water on Mars is exciting. Scientists believe the water is kept in liquid form by a salty brine that Orosei and colleagues speculatively describe as a "sludge". Its radar instrument, known as SHARAD, has not detected the bright batch of permittivity found by MARSIS.

The principle is the same above Mars.

To find the water, Italian researchers analysed radar signals collected over three years by the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft.

The data comes from the ESA's Mars Express orbiter, which carries a ground-penetrating radar instrument called MARSIS. Researchers have also likened the discovery to Antarctica's Lake Vostok.

MARSIS "then measures how the radio waves propagate and reflect back to the spacecraft", said the study. The footprints are color-coded corresponding to the "power" of the radar signal reflected from features below the surface.

An underground salt-laden lake has been found on Mars, according to Italian researchers.

To know for certain if this lake actually exists is not going to be easy, Orosei says.

"This water would be extremely cold, right at the point where it's about to freeze". That suggests that the water is brim full of salts, allowing it to melt.

The lake was discovered on the south polar ice cap of Mars and is covered in a sheet of ice, the thickness of which is yet to be determined. The research was led by Roberto Orosei, a researcher with the National Institute of Astrophysics, in Rome.

If life did arise from those early, cozy conditions, it could have moved underground as the surface cooled and dried. The pressure also changes the melting point of water.

Readings indicate the lake was about twelve and a half miles across and almost a mile below the planet's surface. Water survives frozen in polar ice caps and in subsurface ice deposits.

This particular lake, however, would be neither swimmable nor drinkable. Whether microbial forms of life could lie within is a matter of debate.

"For water to exist under the surface it has to be deep and really salty, and that last part is significant because that is exactly the type of place you go look for lifeforms".

In May, NASA launched another spacecraft, the InSight Mars lander, that will dig under the surface after it reaches a flat plain just north of the Martian equator in November. This was taken up by Percival Lowell, who used the idea of canals to promote the idea in his book Mars and its Canals(1906) that there was a vast and lush ecosystem on Mars, complete with life intelligent enough to make planet-spanning canals to take water from the poles to irrigate canals.

"They haven't seen the light of day for hundreds of thousands of years", he said. "They're eating the rocks for energy". "But this lake represents one of the best chances for finding living microbes on Mars today".

"I've been studying life in ice for 35 years", he said.

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