JAN 31, 2022 10:00 AM PST

Mars Groundwater Prospects Dry Up

The planet Mars has always been known as a bone-dry world, incapable of possessing liquid water on its surface. This is primarily due to the lack of atmospheric pressure necessary to keep water in its liquid form, as Mars exhibits a ground level atmosphere pressure 0.6% of Earth’s. This long-standing theory of why there was a lack of liquid water on Mars had cold water thrown on it when a 2018 study published in Science revealed the possible existence of groundwater beneath the south pole of Mars when scientists saw bright radar reflections underneath the polar cap.

Image Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/Bill Dunford

But the purpose of science is to keep asking questions and challenging hypotheses. A new study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters found that the radar reflections actually matched those of volcanic plains found all over the surface of Mars.

"For water to be sustained this close to the surface, you need both a very salty environment and a strong, locally generated heat source, but that doesn't match what we know of this region," said Dr. Cyril Grima, a planetary scientist at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG), and lead author of the study.

For the study, Dr. Gima added an imaginary ice sheet across a radar map of Mars, which essentially caused the previous south pole findings of liquid water to blend in with the rest of the map. This revealed how the terrain of Mars would look through a mile of ice, which allowed scientists to compare features across the entire planet with those previous findings under the south polar cap.

The study was based on three years of data from the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) instrument aboard the European Space Agency’s Mars Express, which was launched in June 2003 and inserted into Mars orbit that December. Dr. Grima and co-author Dr. Jérémie Mouginot, a research scientist at the Institute of Environmental Geosciences in Grenoble, France, are continuing to work on proposed missions to find water on Mars using radar, both to aid future astronauts on the red planet as well as find signs of past life.

Artist impression of Mars Express with the horizontal MARSIS instrument fully deployed. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Corby Waste

Sources: NASA, ArXiv, AGU

MS in Geological Sciences
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of “Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey”.
You May Also Like
FEB 11, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Mars: A History of Wonder
FEB 11, 2022
Mars: A History of Wonder
Mars, the fourth planet from our Sun. The Red Planet. From time immemorial, we have gazed at it in wonder and dreamed ab ...
APR 12, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Celebrate Humanity on the International Day of Human Space Flight
APR 12, 2022
Celebrate Humanity on the International Day of Human Space Flight
April 12th marks the annual celebration of the International Day of Space Flight. In 2011, the General Assembly (GA) of ...
MAY 16, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
A Strange 'Black Widow' Pulsar Candidate in Our Galaxy
MAY 16, 2022
A Strange 'Black Widow' Pulsar Candidate in Our Galaxy
Pulsars are remnants of dead stars that die by the process of supernova explosion. These explosions often leave either a ...
JUN 09, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
This Day in Science History: Einstein Discovers the Modern Photoelectric Effect
JUN 09, 2022
This Day in Science History: Einstein Discovers the Modern Photoelectric Effect
June 9, 2022, marks 117 years since Einstein published his groundbreaking paper on the photoelectric principle. The anal ...
JUN 14, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
Fast Radio Bursts: The Mystery Deepens
JUN 14, 2022
Fast Radio Bursts: The Mystery Deepens
Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) keep showing up in exciting ways in our Universe. A few weeks ago, an article was publishe ...
JUN 17, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
A Wandering Star Twisted the Magnetic Field in a Stellar Nursery
JUN 17, 2022
A Wandering Star Twisted the Magnetic Field in a Stellar Nursery
Stellar Nurseries are fascinating places to look at to see the signatures of stars and sometimes the process of planet f ...
Loading Comments...