For a long time, scientists have been searching for liquid water on Mars planet. Now a NASA research team report an entire lake. Could there be life there?
Researchers have found for the first time a lake of liquid water on Mars planet. The approximately 20 kilometers wide lake is therefore about 1.5 kilometers below the ice of the Mars planet South Pole. This is reported by a NASA team, led by Roberto Orosei from the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics in Bologna in the US journal “Science”.
Researchers have been discussing for decades whether there is liquid water on Mars planet. So far, at least they are very sure that it must have been water billions of years ago. This is shown by dried rivers and sediments. At that time, the temperatures on the planet were higher and the Martian atmosphere was denser than it is today. Even a whole ocean could once have covered large parts of young Mars.
Recently, researchers came across organic matter from that time. The relatively simple carbon compounds could be relics of a life-friendly time on the Red Planet when there might have been microbes there.
Drops of water on Mars Planet:
But whether there is still liquid water in large quantities on Mars planet, was so far unclear. Only ice has been detected on the polar ice caps . In recent years, scientists have also discovered various traces of liquid water on Mars – but in tiny amounts.
So the US space agency NASA dejected water droplets, and on some steep slopes of the Red Planet, structures that could have come from ice thaws showed. There are also indications that liquid water on Mars forms regularly, but briefly, in a thin layer under the Martian surface in some places. Even in the thin Martian air, there is a small amount of water vapor.
Permanently, liquid water cannot exist on the Martian surface today. For more than 30 years, however, researchers have suggested that under the ice of the polar ice caps there could be bags of liquid water – similar to the subterranean lakes of Antarctica and Greenland on Earth.
The “Mars Express” radar data now confirm this assumption. With the probe of the European space agency ESA, the researchers around Orosei searched parts of the South Pole region Planum Australe on the red planet. There, they came upon a clearly defined region with the same radar signatures as they create hidden lakes under the ice of terrestrial Polar Regions.
What does this mean for life?
Whether there can be life in the glacier lake on Mars is unclear. When other explorers buried the underground Lake Whillans in the Antarctic on Earth, they came across numerous microbes in the eternal darkness. However, Lake Whillans is not a closed ecosystem, its waters are slowly but regularly traded across an underground river.
In addition, it is much colder at the Mars South Pole than in the terrestrial Antarctic. The temperature of the now discovered underground lake, the researchers estimate to minus 68 degrees Celsius on Mars Planet.
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In order for the water on Mars to remain liquid in this cold, the lake must be full of salts that significantly lower the freezing point. Magnesium, calcium and sodium salts are widespread on Mars planet. It is therefore quite plausible that they also occur in the lake, the researchers argue.
The necessary salinity does not make it easier for possible life. However, microorganisms are known from the soil that survives even at high salt concentrations.
Mars Planet is not the only place in our solar system where astronomers suspect extraterrestrial beings. Subterraneous oceans on different ice probes of the planets Jupiter and Saturn are currently considered the most promising candidates for this.