(ORDO NEWS) — A scientist at the Southwestern Research Institute, USA, measured mixtures of ice and brine chilled to minus 100 degrees Celsius to help confirm the hypothesis of liquid salt water between grains of ice or rock under the ice cap at the south pole Mars.
Laboratory experiments by Southwestern Research Institute geophysicist Dr. David Stillman are consistent with the unusually bright reflection effects recorded by the MARSIS subsurface sounding radar aboard the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter.
Using a 40-meter antenna, the MARSIS radar makes it possible to send radio waves to the surface area of interest and analyze the reflected radiation during the flight of the apparatus over the planet. The presence of liquid water below the surface leads to a stronger, brighter signal, while the reflection of radar radiation from ice and rocks is much weaker.
Since the most popular current models suggest that the south polar cap on Mars is at temperatures well below the freezing point of water, most scientists question the possibility of liquid water.
Clays, hydrated salts, and salt-rich ices have been suggested as possible explanations for the source of the bright basal echo. The Italian-led team studied these phenomena using previously published data, computer simulations and new laboratory experiments.
As part of this project, Stillman studied the properties of perchlorate-based brines at low temperatures and pressures of the order of the Martian atmosphere in the laboratory of the Southwestern Research Institute.
“The study showed that on Mars we will not see lakes in which brines based on perchlorates or chlorides splash, but these brines can exist in the gaps between grains of ice or sedimentary rocks, and this amount of them is enough to form a powerful dielectric response.
It is like soaking sand on the seashore with water, but at temperatures of minus 70 degrees under a kilometer-long layer of ice in the vicinity of the south pole of Mars.”
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