Research reignites debate over presence of liquid water on southern Mars
A study reported by Olhar Digital last Monday (24) said that the supposed liquid water at the south pole of Mars was “just a mirage”. Two days later, new research comes in to indicate otherwise, stating a good probability that the region has “salt water” under the ice sheet on the lower curve of the red planet.
According to data collected by the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), in Texas, the properties of the analysis of components of Martian ice at temperatures of -98.3º C (Celsius) confirm a high possibility of the existence of “saline” water in the mentioned region. .
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The new study refutes earlier this week's research, while supporting the older analysis made from data collected by MARSIS – an instrument operated by the European Space Agency (ESA). The artifact asserted the possibility of liquid water under the ice after observing reflections from the surface of Mars' south pole in its antennae.
“Lakes of liquid water do indeed exist under the glaciers of our Arctic and Antarctic regions, so there are Earth analogues for us to look for water beneath the ice [on other planets],” said Dr. David Stillman, geophysicist at SwRI. “The exotic salts that we already know exist on Mars have remarkable 'antifreeze' properties, allowing ice lattices to remain liquid even at sub-zero temperatures. We studied these salts in our lab to understand how they would respond to radar.”
“Ice trusses” are, in a simple way, the compound derived from the crystallization of water into ice. The salt does not adjust to the chemical structure of the ice, so it ends up being expelled, forming scattered objects.
The consideration of the reflections observed by MARSIS was essential for our research: equipped with an antenna of about 40 meters (m), the ESA apparatus flies over a planet, reflecting radio waves over a specific area and analyzing the echoes and reflections that get it back.
In the case of near-surface liquid water, these reflections are displayed extremely brightly, while ice and rocky bodies are less evident. What Stillman did was review the older data, but using new methods — specifically, an environmental chamber inside the SwRI that allows it to reach temperatures close to liquid nitrogen, and mimic pressures similar to the environment on Mars — to analyze the presence of salts. as perchlorate and chloride.
“My Italian colleagues [authors of the first research] came to me to assess whether my laboratory experiment would support the presence of liquid water in the Martian glacier,” he said. “My research has shown that we don't have lakes of perchlorate or chloride, but these chemicals can exist between the ice grains and sediments, which is enough to exhibit a powerful dielectric response. Something similar happens when seawater leaves saturated grains of sand on the beach; or how artificial flavorings permeate drinks like slushies and slushies .”
Stillman points out, however, that the presence of liquid water in that area, specifically, should not be understood as “synonymous” for the presence of life on Mars. According to him, the area is so cold that it makes the emergence of life unviable. But still, it raises interesting questions about the evolution of Mars over billions of years.
The full paper was published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
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