The Hush Post: In what can be termed as one of the biggest discoveries, scientists claimed to have spotted a “sizable salt-laden lake” under the ice on the southern polar plain of Mars, using a radar instrument on an orbiting spacecraft.
The scientists have called this sizable salt-laden lake a possible habitat for microbial life, a report said.
The reservoir detected by the scientists is about 12 miles (20 km) in diameter, and has a shape like a rounded triangle and situated about a mile (1.5 km) beneath the ice surface, represents the first stable body of liquid water ever found on Mars, the report said.
“This is the place on Mars where you have something that most resembles a habitat, a place where life could subsist,” Roberto Orosei, a planetary scientist from the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica in Italy, quoted as saying in the report. He led the research published in the journal Science.
“This kind of environment is not exactly your ideal vacation or a place where fish would swim. But there are terrestrial organisms that can survive and thrive, in fact, in similar environments. There are microorganisms on Earth that are capable of surviving even in ice,” Orosei was further quoted.
The report said that the detection was made using data collected between May 2012 and December 2015 by an instrument aboard the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft that transmits radar pulses, which penetrate the Martian surface and ice caps.
“This took us long years of data analysis and struggles to find a good method to be sure that what we were observing was unambiguously liquid water,” said Enrico Flamini, study co-author and chief scientist at the Italian Space Agency during the research.
The location’s radar profile resembled that of subglacial lakes found beneath Earth’s Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets.
The research said that long ago Mars was wetter and warmer, possessing significant bodies of water, as evidenced by dry lake beds and river valleys on its surface. There had been some signs of liquid water currently on Mars, including disputed evidence of water activity on Martian slopes, but not stable bodies of water.
The scientists reportedly said the water in the Martian lake was below the normal freezing point but remained liquid thanks in large part to high levels of salts. Orosei estimated the water temperature at somewhere between 14 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 10 degrees Celsius) and minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70 degrees Celsius).
It remains to be seen if more subsurface reservoirs of water will be found or whether the newly discovered one is some sort of quirk, Orosei reportedly said.
If others are detected and a network of subglacial lakes exists like on Earth, he said, that could indicate liquid water has persisted for millions of years or even dating back to 3-1/2 billion years ago when Mars was a more hospitable planet, the report said.
Orosei said that the question would be whether any life forms that could have evolved long ago on Mars have found a way to survive until now. “Nobody dares to propose that there could be any more complex life form,” Orosei was quoted as having said.