No liquid water, there is volcanic rock under the south pole of Mars: study

In 2018, the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft detected bright radar reflections at the ice-covered south pole of Mars. Scientists suspected they were looking at liquid water about 1.4 km below the ice. However, a new study published yesterday indicates that the reflections could be caused by volcanic rock buried under the ice.

“For the water to be held this close to the surface requires both a very salty environment and a strong source of locally generated heat, but that’s not consistent with what we know about this region,” he said. lead author of the study, Cyril Grima. , a planetary scientist at the University of Texas Institute of Geophysics in a statement. The results were published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The colored dots represent the sites where bright radar reflections have been spotted by ESA’s Mars Express orbiter on Mars’ southern polar cap. (ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The team used data from Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS), a multi-frequency radar sounder aboard the Mars Express spacecraft that is still operating today, providing about 15 years of measurements.

The team explains that on Earth too, rocks formed by lava flows reflect radar in the same way.

Last year, an article published in the same journal said that clay minerals could create the mysterious signals.

Isaac Smith, a Mars geophysicist at York University who was not involved in the study, added: “I think the beauty of Grima’s discovery is that although it overturns the idea that ‘there could be liquid water under the south pole of the planet today, it also gives us really specific places to go for evidence of ancient lakes and riverbeds and test hypotheses about drying up wider climate of Mars over billions of years.

Dr. Cyril Grima and Dr. Isaac Smith are currently working on proposed missions to find water on Mars with radar. It will help to find future human landing sites and also to look for signs of past life.

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