Could Life Exist On Mars? Scientists Discover Multiple Underground Salty Ponds

KEY POINTS

  • Researchers say they have discovered a group of lakes hidden under Mars’ icy surface
  • This follows the detection of another subsurface lake in the same region in 2018
  • The findings revived the debate on whether the Red Planet has alien life or can house microorganisms

A team of Italian scientists discovered a group of three salty ponds beneath Mars’ south pole. The findings revived the debate on whether the Red Planet has alien life or at least can house microorganisms. 

The discovery of these ponds raised the possibility that microbial organisms could survive on Mars but the only hindrance was the high amount of salt concentration, which could be keeping the waters frozen, scientists said in a report published on Sept. 28 in Nature Astronomy.   

The discovery of the salty ponds was significant because their locations were close to another lake discovered in 2018. The largest of them

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Are there super salty lakes on Mars? Research suggests buried reservoir near south pole

The existence of liquid water on Mars — one of the more hotly debated matters about our cold, red neighbor — is looking increasingly likely.

New research published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy indicates that there really is a buried reservoir of super salty water near the south pole. Scientists say such a lake would significantly improve the likelihood that Mars just might harbor microscopic life of its own.

Some scientists remain unconvinced that what’s been seen is liquid water, but the latest study adds weight to a tentative 2018 finding from radar maps of the planet’s crust made by the Mars Express robot orbiter.

That research suggested that an underground “lake” of liquid water had pooled beneath frozen layers of sediment near the south pole — akin to the subglacial lakes detected beneath the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets on Earth.

Image: Mars south polar ice cap (Bj?rn Schreiner - FU Berlin / ESA)
Image: Mars south polar ice cap (Bj?rn
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Salty lake, ponds may be gurgling beneath South Pole on Mars

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A network of salty ponds may be gurgling beneath Mars’ South Pole alongside a large underground lake, raising the prospect of tiny, swimming Martian life.

Italian scientists reported their findings Monday, two years after identifying what they believed to be a large buried lake. They widened their coverage area by a couple hundred miles, using even more data from a radar sounder on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter.

In the latest study appearing in the journal Nature Astronomy, the scientists provide further evidence of this salty underground lake, estimated to be 12 miles to 18 miles (20 kilometers to 30 kilometers) across and buried 1 mile (1.5 kilometers) beneath the icy surface.

Even more tantalizing, they’ve also identified three smaller bodies of water surrounding the lake. These ponds appear to be of various sizes and are separate from the main lake.

Roughly 4

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Salty lakes below Mars’ glaciers could harbor life

Scientists have detected a series of saltwater lakes beneath the glaciers of Mars’ southern ice cap. The researchers think the liquid in these lakes doesn’t freeze and become solid, despite the low temperatures of Mars’ glaciers, due to its extremely high concentrations of salt.

The Mars Express spacecraft, which has been surveying the red planet since 2005, had previously detected signs of a subglacial lake basin on Mars’ south pole, but it was unclear whether the lake was liquid or what it contained.

mars ice cap south pole southern

The southern ice cap of Mars, April 17, 2000.


NASA/JPL



To find out, a group of Italian, German, and Australian researchers applied a radio-echo technique that Earth satellites use to detect subsurface lakes in Antarctica. They scanned the area multiple times from 2010 to 2019, then published their results in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday.

The analysis confirmed the liquid-water nature of Mars’ underground lake, as

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Pair of massive baby stars swaddled in salty water vapor

Pair of massive baby stars swaddled in salty water vapor
ALMA composite image of a binary massive protostar IRAS 16547-4247. Different colors show the different distributions of dust particles (yellow), methyl cyanide (CH3CN, red), salt (NaCl, green), and hot water vapor (H2O, blue). Bottom insets are the close-up views of each components. Dust and methyl cyanide are distributed widely around the binary, whereas salt and water vapor are concentrated in the disk around each protostar. In the wide-field image, the jets from one of the protostars, seen as several dots in the above image, are shown in light blue. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), Tanaka et al.

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), astronomers spotted a pair of massive baby stars growing in salty cosmic soup. Each star is shrouded by a gaseous disk which includes molecules of sodium chloride, commonly known as table salt, and heated water vapor. Analyzing the radio emissions from the salt and water, the team found

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