Researchers have detected the presence of three more lakes, besides one large reservoir discovered two years ago, buried under the icy surface of the red planet, Mars.
According to a paper published in Nature Astronomy on Monday, researchers have confirmed the presence of one saltwater lake, which was discovered by planetary scientists two years ago, and also found three more lakes hidden under the surface of Mars.
A report in the science journal, Nature, quoted one of the paper’s co-authors, Elena Pettinelli, planetary scientist, University of Rome, as saying: “We identified the same body of water, but we also found three other bodies of water around the main one…It’s a complex system.”
According to the findings, the lakes are spread over about 75,000 square kilometres – an area roughly one-fifth the size of Germany. “The largest, central lake, measures 30 kilometres across, and is surrounded by three smaller lakes, each a few kilometres wide,” it said.
Now when researchers have confirmed the presence of underground water on Mars, the findings could open new avenues for investigating the red planet.
LIFE POSSIBILE ON MARS?
Scientists say that if reservoirs exist, they could be potential habitats for Martian life.
The researchers used radar data from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) orbiting Mars Express spacecraf to discover the lakes, the report said.
“It follows the detection of a single subsurface lake in the same region in 2018 – which, if confirmed, would be the first body of liquid water ever detected on the red planet and a possible habitat for life. But that finding was based on just 29 observations made from 2012 to 2015.” it further said.
“The latest study used a broader data set comprising 134 observations from between 2012 and 2019,” the report said.
PROBLEM: HOW SALTY IS THE UNDERGROUND WATER
Even though scientists have said that the possible presence of water poses a sign of potential habitat on the planet, the amount of salt in the lakes is the real problem here.
It’s said that any underground lakes on Mars must have a reasonably high salt content for the water to remain liquid.
“There may be a small amount of heat from the interior of Mars. This alone would not be enough to melt the ice into water,” the report said.
In addition to this, Pettinelli said: “From a thermal point of view it has to be salty.”
The reported quoted John Priscu, an environmental scientist at Montana State University, as saying that lakes with a salt content about five times that of seawater can support life, “but as you approach 20 times that of seawater, life is no longer present”.
THE 2018 DISCOVERY
In 2018, researchers had discovered a large saltwater lake lurking under ice near Mars’s south pole.
Then, a report has said: “If confirmed, it would be the first body of liquid water ever detected on the red planet and a significant milestone in the quest to determine whether life.”
“The lake is about 1.5 kilometres beneath Mars’s surface and is at least 1 metre deep. To keep from freezing, the water must be very salty, Orosei says – perhaps similar to super-salty subglacial lakes reported in the Canadian Arctic earlier this year.” a report published in Nature on 2018 read.
HEAT AROUND THE MARS DISCOVERY
The presence of the Martian lakes is debated by and large among scientists and researchers. After the 2018 observation, researchers raised concerns over the lack of an adequate heat source to turn the ice into water.
According to the report, although the latest finding supports the 2018 discovery and involves much more data, “not everyone is yet convinced that the regions identified are liquid water”.
Source – India Today