Tuesday, 21 August, 2018

A lake of actual water has been discovered on Mars

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
Edmund Robinson | 26 July, 2018, 15:51

"If it does turn out that liquid water is the only explanation for the radar signal", she said, "it would be an exciting result, as the subsurface can also provide shielding from the harmful radiation of space, which would be needed if there is any life on Mars given the present lack of a thick atmosphere and magnetic field to protect the surface like we have on Earth".

This is not the first time that scientists have discovered signs of water on Mars but this is the first time that a persistent water supply has been found, which is noteworthy. And again, the liquid involved would be far saltier than Earth's oceans (and the salts are likely perchlorates, which aren't as common on Earth). "There are all the ingredients for thinking that life can be there, or can be maintained there if life once existed on Mars". Unless, that is, one could somehow peer deep beneath its frigid surface to the base of the ice cap some 1.5 kilometers below, where a lake of liquid water almost three times larger than the island of Manhattan may lurk.

According to the journal Nature, if further studies confirm the existence of a lake, it could open new avenues for investigating Mars.

This finding makes it more likely that there will be "not just extinct life but extant life", he says.

Water, of course, is a prerequisite for life as we know it.

Mars might probably not be hospitable to life today, but when the planet was warm several millions of years ago, it might have hosted microbes - a theory scientists are struggling to confirm through various Martian missions that are now looking for evidence of past life.

"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 study co-author Enrico Flamini, chief scientist at the Italian Space Agency during the research.

What does this mean for life? The surface is scored by old gorges, canyons, beaches, ocean basins and giant volcanoes, whose eruptions could have kept things riled up on the planet.

"When extremes occur, life moves into the rocks". Several craft have taken radar measurements and have arrived at no conclusive evidence of liquid water.

The current findings, however, "cannot say anything more", Flamini said. "We may guess about what are the conditions and if the conditions are favorable".

Located under a layer of Martian ice, the lake is about 20 km wide, said the report led by Italian researchers in the United States journal Science. That is tens of billions of gallons.




Using the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding instrument (MARSIS), radar pulses were sent below ground to inspect 200-kilometer wide patch from May 2012 to December 2015. Over the years, spacecrafts and rovers have uncovered evidence of its watery past.

"This water would be extremely cold, right at the point where it's about to freeze".

The water would be a brine mixed with perchlorate salts.

The region corresponded to a basin, adding to speculation that liquid water had flowed into this spot. The data also ruled out liquid CO2, which is not polarized like water and thus has low permittivity.

Those pulses reflected 29 sets of radar samples that created a map of drastic change in signal nearly a mile below the surface. That's because the radar works best at night and when it's within 500 miles of the planet's surface.

Radar images of reflective regions that suggest the presence of liquid water. The brightest reflections are centered around 193 degrees E/81 degrees S in the intersecting orbits, outlining a well-defined, 20 km-wide zone.

Higher frequency radar pulses are not able to penetrate deep enough to detect the boundary between ice and liquid beneath the polar cap, and so SHARAD has been unable to detect this lake. "You have a lot of interfaces that could do unusual things to radar signals", said Zurek, who was not involved with the research.

For decades now, we've been searching for water on Mars.

Liquid water hanging out beneath the planet's surface, which is too hot for it to survive, has been a suspected reality for years.

"But there are terrestrial organisms that can survive and thrive, in fact, in similar environments".

"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". "There is no reason to conclude that the presence of subsurface water on Mars is limited to a single location", they conclude.

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