JUN 07, 2024 4:30 PM PDT

Study Disputes Liquid Water Presence Below Mars' South Pole

A 2018 study published in Science presented how radar data from the Mars Express spacecraft showed evidence that a lake of liquid water existed beneath the south polar ice cap of Mars. However, a recent study published in Science Advances by a team of researchers from Cornell University presents new evidence that could contrast those previous findings. This study holds the potential to help researchers better understand the subsurface environment on Mars and the geologic processes that form them.

For the new study, the researchers used computer simulations to demonstrate that the reflections previously detected by Mars Express could be explained by ice layers caked with dust that the radar initially interpreted to be liquid water. The researchers note the reason for the misinterpretation could be from the distances between these dusty layers of water ice was closer than the radar instrument’s resolution capabilities, along with interference between the layers, as well.

“This is the first time we have a hypothesis that explains the entire population of observations below the ice cap, without having to introduce anything unique or odd,” said Dr. Daniel Lalich, who is a Research Associate in the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science and lead author of the study. “This result where we get bright reflections scattered all over the place is exactly what you would expect from thin-layer interference in the radar.”

While Mars is incapable of having liquid water on its surface due to its thin atmosphere, which is a fraction of the Earth’s, the potential for liquid water beneath the surface poses questions for where we could search for life on the Red Planet.

What new discoveries beneath the polar caps of Mars will researchers make in the coming years and decades? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

Sources: Science, Science Advances, EurekAlert!

Featured Image: Mars with its north and south polar ice caps taken by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft in February 2007. (Credit: ESA & MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
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
Loading Comments...