The Water-Lakes Debate on Mars Just Got More Interesting

The Water-Lakes Debate on Mars Just Got More Interesting
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This image, taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter vehicle, shows the ice sheets at the south pole of Mars.

This image, taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter vehicle, shows the ice sheets at the south pole of Mars.
picture: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/JHU

Scientists have been arguing for years about obscure radar scans of Mars’ south pole. Do they reveal underground lakes of liquid water? Or something else? Two new articles coming out this week have added even more intrigue to the debate.

In 2018, a team of Italian scientists, Discovered a subglacial lake near the south pole of Mars Using radar data from the Mars Express satellite. The discovery was met with skepticism by others scientists who propose alternatives such as clay pellets could produce the same reflection patterns. This is a debate in itself because of the effects of water on life. Most scientists believe that Mars used to be very wetlooks like H2O left all ice.

The controversy has reignited this week with new evidence from NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor satellite supporting the liquid water hypothesis. Radar signals from the 2018 study pointed to a 12-mile-wide (20-kilometer) region about one mile below the surface, which the researchers interpreted as a subglacial lake or a chunk of liquid water. To confirm this interpretation, a different team examined satellite data of the surface topography of the same region. their analysis, published This week in Nature Astronomy revealed a 6 to 15-mile (10-15-kilometer) surge of a depression and a corresponding raised area, similar to the ripples found in subglacial lakes on Earth.

The team then ran a computer simulation of an ice flow consistent with conditions on Mars, and the simulations produced ripples in size and shape similar to those observed on the Martian ice sheet surface. The study shows that there is indeed an accumulation of liquid water under the planet’s south polar ice cap. “The combination of new topographic evidence, the results of our computer model, and radar data makes it much more likely that at least one subglacial area of ​​liquid water exists on Mars today,” said Neil Arnold, a researcher at Scott Polar Research in Cambridge. The institute and lead author of the study said in a statement.

But a separate article suggests that the liquid water radar data is actually the result of interaction between different geological layers on Mars, producing a reflection pattern that could be misinterpreted as liquid water. HE studyPublished this week in Nature Astronomy, it offers an alternative explanation for the 2018 finding. The team behind this work created a layer simulation of four materials—atmosphere, water ice, carbon dioxide ice, and basalt—and measured the interaction of the layers with electromagnetic radiation as it passed through.

They found that, depending on the thickness of the layers and how far apart they were, they produced reflections similar to those observed in the 2018 radar data. “On Earth, reflections that are bright are often an indication of liquid water, or even buried. Lakes like Lake Vostok [under the surface of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet]Dan Lalich, research fellow with the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science and lead author of the study, Declaration. “But on Mars, the prevailing view was that it had to be very cold for similar lakes to form.”

“None of our studies disprove the possible presence of liquid water there,” Lalich added. “We just think that the interference hypothesis is more consistent with other observations. I’m not sure anything other than practice can definitively prove either side of this argument right or wrong.”

temperatures It can drop to about -220 degrees Fahrenheit (-140 degrees Celsius) on Mars. These cold conditions constitute the main argument against any liquid water flowing on the Red Planet. But the researchers behind the latest pro-water study argue that geothermal heat from inside the planet may be enough to keep water in a liquid state.

Water is the main component of life on Earth, but that doesn’t mean our sacred life essence will sprout life forms elsewhere in the universe. The debate over water has implications for future crewed missions to Mars, especially if we want to establish a sustained presence there.

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