What scientists actually found at the south pole of Mars

(ORDO NEWS) — Two new studies have shown what the ice cap of the south pole of Mars can hide under it. Radar results may indicate clay minerals or frozen “brine”

Potentially habitable lakes of liquid water can be found deep beneath the Red Planet’s south polar ice cap. The question of the likelihood of a lake with a diameter of about 20 kilometers was first raised in 2018, when the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft explored the planet’s south polar cap using the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding or MARSIS instrument.

Then bright spots were found under the ice, which suggested the presence of liquid water at a depth of about 1.5 kilometers. Subsequently, several more lakes were discovered around the main one.

But planetary scientists have always been skeptical about the existence of lakes on Mars, because they need heat. The temperature under the glacier is -68 degrees Celsius. In such conditions, even a salt lake would freeze.

“If it’s not liquid water, then how can we explain the bright reflections we see on radars?” asked planetary scientist Carver Birson of Arizona State University at Tempe.

Birson and his colleagues named a couple more substances that could explain the reflections. It should be mentioned that the reflectivity of the radar depends on the electrical conductivity of the material it is aimed at.

The study showed that a similar reflection can be observed when pointing the radar at clay minerals and very salty frozen liquid.

In addition, a three-dimensional map of the entire south pole was recently created with the help of MARSIS instruments , which shows hundreds and even thousands of bright spots.

“We find them literally all over the pole,” says planetary scientist Aditya Huller of Arizona State University. “We see them where it is very cold.”

Probably, some process is taking place at the pole, as a result of which minerals or frozen brines were formed.

“Combining these two studies into one and adding data from other studies, I would say that this gives us 85 percent certainty that there is not a lake under the glacier,” says planetary scientist Edgard Rivera-Valentin from the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, who did not take part in the research.

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