Hidden lakes on Mars may not be filled with water at all

(ORDO NEWS) — The likelihood of liquid water lakes hidden under the south polar ice cap of Mars is diminishing before our eyes.

Last year, scientists found that temperatures were too cold for the region’s water to remain unfrozen. Now a new study has shown that the radar signal, interpreted as liquid water, was another resource that is abundant on Mars: volcanic rock.

“Here we aim to determine whether Martian landscapes today could produce strong basal echoes if they were covered by an ice sheet,” the researchers write in their paper.

“We have found that some existing volcanic landscapes can produce a very strong basal signal, similar to what is seen in the south polar cap.”

The discovery of underground reservoirs of liquid water at the south pole of Mars was announced in 2018.

Radar signals reflected just below the planet’s surface revealed a patch of something with high radar reflectivity 1.4 kilometers (1.4 kilometers) below the ice, the researchers said.

Subsequent searches revealed new shiny reflective spots, indicating the presence of a whole network of underground lakes.

It would be great. Here on Earth, underground water bodies are places where we can find microbial life surviving by chemical reactions rather than sunlight. If there is life on Mars, we might find it in a similar environment. But Mars is probably too, too cold for such liquid reservoirs.

“For water to be this close to the surface, you need both a very saline environment and a strong local heat source, but that doesn’t match what we know about this region,” says planetary scientist Cyril Grima from the University of Texas Geophysics.

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