July 26, 2018

Water Lake found on Mars

Timothy Birdnow

A large lake of liquid water has been found on Mars, reviving hopes that a microbial life form may exist on the Earth's second nearest neighbor.

The lake - a 12.5 mile long subterranean watershed under the south polar ice cap strongly resembles lakes found beneath the icecap in Greenland. The lake is apparently being heated enough to keep the water liquid in a very frozen environment.

This has excited exobiologists, who theorize it may be possible that microbial life forms reside int he water on the ice.
It is believed that a water ocean lies beneath the ice of Europa, Juptier's moon, as well as probably under Ganymede and Callisto as well as enceladus, which has a planetary girdling ocean beneath the ice of this moon of Saturn. But nobody has ever found liquid water on Mars, which is the most Earthlike world in the solar system.

From the article:

"The discovery was made using Marsis, a radar instrument on board the European Space Agency's (Esa) Mars Express orbiter.
Image copyright NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems Image caption The proposed lake sits beneath ice near the south pole of Mars

"It's probably not a very large lake," said Prof Roberto Orosei from the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics, who led the study.

Marsis wasn't able to determine how thick the layer of water might be, but the research team estimate that it is a minimum of one metre.

"This really qualifies this as a body of water. A lake, not some kind of meltwater filling some space between rock and ice, as happens in certain glaciers on Earth," Prof Orosei added.

End excerpt.

And at 1.5 km (about three quarters of a mile) below the surface this lake will be safe from dangerous ionizing radiation that Mars is subject to as a result of it's near vaccuum atmosphere. Cosmic rays and solar storms are no threat to any life down there. But there's another problem:

"In order to remain liquid in such cold conditions (the research team estimate between -10 and -30 Celsius where it meets the ice above), the water likely has a great many salts dissolved in it.

"It's plausible that the water may be an extremely cold, concentrated brine, which would be pretty challenging for life," explained Dr Claire Cousins, an astrobiologist from the University of St Andrews, UK."

End excerpt.

So it may be too salty to support life. But life has been found in the depths of the Dead Sea, a very salty place indeed. It's also been found in Lake Vostok, a subterranean lake under the ice in Antarctica, so it may be possible. Of course, Life on Earth has been around for a long time and has had plenty of opportunity to adapt to diverse and hostile conditions. If Mars ever had life it undoubtedly never rose from the microbial stage, and likely did not have enough diversity to be able to make such adaptations.

At any rate, this is a fun story and shows how much we have yet to learn. There's a whole universe out there just waiting for us.

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 01:09 PM | Comments (11) | Add Comment
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