Why it matters: The largest of the lakes is said to measure over 18 miles wide with each of the other lakes measuring only a few kilometers wide. The hope is that these subsurface lakes could harbor microbial life, but not everyone is convinced.
Researchers a couple of years back detected evidence of an underground saltwater lake near the south pole of Mars. Now, they’ve got additional evidence to support the discovery and more.
In July 2018, they cited radar data from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft. It is equipped with an instrument that sends out radio waves and records how they are reflected back against the type of material they encounter, like rock, ice, or water.
As Nature recounts, however, the findings at the time were only based on 29 observations made from 2012 to 2015. Other researchers felt they needed a larger body of evidence to support their claim of finding liquid water on the Red Planet.
The latest study features 134 observations spanning from 2012 to 2019, which identified the same body of water as before, plus three other smaller lakes around the main one. The same instrument, the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS), was employed.
John Priscu, an environmental scientist at Montana State University in Bozeman, said there is not much life in similar salty pools in Antarctica. “They’re just pickled. And that might be the case [on Mars],” he added.
Jack Holt, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona, told Nature that there is not enough heat flow to support a brine, even under the ice cap.
Image credit Pike-28, Jan Kaliciak