New research suggests that Mars may have a cluster of salty, liquid water lakes beneath its polar ice caps. Scientists first unearthed evidence of these subglacial reservoirs in 2018. If proven to exist, these lakes could upend what we know about where and how life might exist on other worlds.
In 2018, planetary scientist Roberto Orosei and his colleagues stirred up a multi-planetary controversy when they claimed they’d found evidence of a subglacial lake nearly a mile below ice at Mars’s south pole. At the time, fellow planetary scientists met the claims with intense scrutiny.
Now, Orosei, a planetary scientist at Italy’s National Institute for Astrophysics, and his fellow researchers say they have new, additional evidence that these deep, vast subglacial lakes really do exist. They published their findings this week in the journal Nature Astronomy.
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If these lakes are, in fact, real, they could reshape our understanding of whether life could still exist on Mars. “This area is the closest thing to ‘habitable’ on Mars that has been found so far,” Orosei told Science News.
The Key Ingredient: Salt
Scientists believe Mars was covered in a vast network of liquid water seas roughly 4 billion years ago. Now, the planet is a dusty, desolate wasteland. But some of that water is still on Mars’s surface in the form of ice tucked along steep crater walls at the planet’s poles. Because the surface of Mars is so cold—and because atmospheric pressure is so low—liquid water can’t exist on its surface.
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