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NASA explores the mystery of the lake beneath the Martian surface


The ESA calls this beautiful image of the Martian surface the “Cappuccino swirl at the south pole of Mars”

ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/Bill Dunford

A lake hidden beneath the southern Martian ice sheet sounds very mysterious. A new NASA study offers new data indicating a pool of liquid hidden beneath the surface. And now we have more questions than ever before.

Two researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab examined radar data from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft and found dozens of spots around Mars’ south pole that may indicate a hidden pond. This builds on a 2018 study that Found a hidden lake and 2019 paper describing several more possible ponds.

“We are not sure if these signals are liquid water or not. “Liquid water is common under Mars’ south pole. or these signs indicate something else.”

Possible lakes appear as bright radar reflections in an area known as the sub-polar deposits. It is a lasagna-like area with a layer of water ice. dry ice and dust

Colorful dots indicate bright radar reflections. The new study questions if they identify subsurface liquid water, or if something else might happen.


What is unusual about this new discovery is that some of the identified points are less than a mile from the surface. And it is estimated to be minus 81 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 63 degrees Celsius). So cold, even very salty water will freeze. Previous studies have suggested that high salt content could explain why water remains liquid despite cold polar temperatures.

Another idea is recent volcanic eruptions This deep under the surface of the water can cause the water to warm up. Enough to be fluid. Lead author Aditya Khuller, a former JPL intern, said of the idea: “however We have yet to see definitive evidence for recent Antarctic volcanism, so it is unlikely that the volcano will allow subsurface water to be present throughout the region.”

The researchers created a map showing possible subsurface lake locations based on bright radar reflections. They are not yet ready to announce what is causing the signal. This leads us to an ongoing mystery: there are subsurface lakes on Mars’ south pole. Or is there anything else going on there?

“Our mapping allows us to better understand both the extent and cause of the puzzling radar reflections,” Plaut said.

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