Family

Lake of Water Found on Mars — Why This Matters

The discovery may settle 30 years of debate about the Red Planet — some scientists say it's a 'game-changer'

Scientists have uncovered a “a stable body of liquid water” on Mars, in what some are calling a “game-changer” in the search for alien life.

What is believed to be liquid water is sitting below Mars’ southern polar ice cap and is described as a “well-defined, 20-kilometer-wide zone.” Twenty kilometers is roughly 12.5 miles.

The findings, which are published in the journal Science, were made possibly by Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS), an instrument that resides on the Mars Express spacecraft. MARSIS surveyed Mars’ Planum Australe region between May 2012 and December 2015 and utilized radar pulses, sending them through the surface and the polar ice caps, ultimately measuring how the radio waves came back.

The pulses that came back created the aforementioned “well-defined, 20-kilometer-wide zone” and found that the radar reflected the brightness of the liquid water. The study’s abstract notes that it is surrounded by “much less reflective areas,” a sign that it is indeed water.

The team that wrote the study, including lead author Professor Roberto Orosei, have ruled out any other causes for the brightness.

Speaking with the BBC, Orosei said it probably isn’t “a very large lake,” but added that this is a body of water and not runoff from a glacier or something else.

Do you support individual military members being able to opt out of getting the COVID vaccine?

By completing the poll, you agree to receive emails from LifeZette, occasional offers from our partners and that you've read and agree to our privacy policy and legal statement.

“This really qualifies this as a body of water. A lake, not some kind of meltwater filling some space between rock and ice, as happens in certain glaciers on Earth,” Orosei told the British media giant.

Following news of the findings, social media was understandably enthused, with some wondering what it might mean for the search for extraterrestrial life.

What does this mean? The presence of liquid water at the bottom of the Martian polar ice caps was first theorized more than 30 years ago, the researchers said, but it had been “inconclusively debated ever since.” With the stunning findings, that debate is likely to be put to bed.

The water is likely to be below the freezing point for water (32°F or 0°C) given its location beneath the ice cap, but the presence of minerals such as magnesium, calcium and sodium perchlorate in the soil of the northern plains of Mars, “support the presence of liquid water at the base of the polar deposits.”

The presence of these minerals could help form a brine with the water, which would allow it to remain liquid, a reaction that already exists on Earth in areas like Antarctica.

Despite the obvious excitement surrounding the findings, Mars’ surface is “inhospitable to life,” according to the Open University’s Dr. Manish Patel, and researchers are not any closer to finding life than they were prior to the announcement.

“This is just one small study area; it is an exciting prospect to think there could be more of these underground pockets of water elsewhere, yet to be discovered,” Orosei said in a statement on the European Space Agency’s website.

Related: NASA Photog Gets Big Surprise After Camera Meltdown

Nonetheless, Wednesday’s announcement is garnering significant attention, something Dmitri Titov, ESA’s Mars Express project scientist, called a “much-awaited result.”

“This thrilling discovery is a highlight for planetary science and will contribute to our understanding of the evolution of Mars, the history of water on our neighbor planet and its habitability,” Titov said.

This Fox News piece is used by permission.

Read more from Fox News:
‘NCIS’ Announces Pauley Perrette’s Replacement for New Upcoming Season
‘Big Brother’ Season 20 Houseguest Uses N-Word After CBS Warning
When Kathy Griffin’s Jokes Crossed the Line

Join the Discussion

COMMENTS POLICY: We have no tolerance for messages of violence, racism, vulgarity, obscenity or other such discourteous behavior. Thank you for contributing to a respectful and useful online dialogue.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments