Number of ancient Martian lakes was underestimated by scientists

(ORDO NEWS) — Drawing on a meta-analysis of years of satellite data on Martian lakes, Dr. Joseph MICHALSKY, a geologist in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Hong Kong, suggested that scientists may have grossly underestimated the number of ancient lakes that once existed on the Red Planet.

Michalsky and an international team of scientists recently published their findings in Nature Astronomy.

“We know about 500 ancient lakes located on Mars, but almost all the lakes that we know about are more than 100 square meters. km,” Michalski explains. “But on Earth, 70% of the lakes are smaller than this size.

These small lakes are difficult to identify on Mars using satellite remote sensing, but it is likely that many small lakes existed on the planet. It is likely that at least 70% of Martian lakes have yet to be discovered.”

Recent studies also report that most of the known Martian lakes existed between 3,500 and 4,000 million years ago, but each of the lakes existed for a relatively short period of time – from 10,000 to 100,000 years.

This means that ancient Mars was probably cold and dry, but warmed up occasionally. Michalsky adds: “Because of the low gravity on Mars and the vast, fine-grained soil, the lakes on Mars were very muddy, so light could not penetrate very deeply. This could create a problem for photosynthetic life if it existed there.”

Lakes contain water, nutrients and energy sources for possible microbial life. Thus, lakes are the main objects for astrobiological research of rovers.

But Michalski warns: “Not all lakes are created equal. In other words, some Martian lakes will be more interesting for microbial life than others because some are large, deep, long-lived, and have a wide range of environments, such as hydrothermal systems, that could support the formation of simple life.”

From this perspective, it may make sense to target large, ancient, ecologically diverse lakes in future research.

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