Water seen beneath the polar ice cap on Mars could be an optical illusion, scientists say UK News


Liquid water previously seen beneath the surface of Mars could be an illusion, a new study suggests.

The liquid was allegedly soiled underneath the planets ice-covered South Pole in 2018.

Scientists saw bright reflections and assumed they were looking at water beneath the polar cap.

NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars in August 2021. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

However, new research from the University of Texas says the temperature and pressure on the planet make it unlikely that water could exist there.

Cyril Grima, a planetary scientist at the University’s Institute of Geophysics, said: “For water to be preserved so close to the surface you need both a very saline environment and a strong, locally generated heat source, but that’s not what we’re doing know this region.”

The scientists suspect that the sighting could be volcanic rock buried under ice and not water.

The researchers tested their theory by seeing what the planet would look like if viewed through a mile of ice.

This allowed them to compare features across the planet with those beneath the polar cap.

Mr. Grima noticed the same bright reflections as in 2018, but they were scattered across the planet and matched the volcanic plains.

Iron-rich lava flows can leave behind rocks with similar reflections that can be mistaken for water.

This image of the South Séítah region of Jezero Crater was captured by NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter during its 11th flight on Aug 4.  Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Sightings of water have been called an illusion, but craters on Mars can still contain signs of life. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

While this may seem like disappointing news, there is plenty of ice to be found on Mars and many scientists are excited for further developments in our understanding of the planet.

York University geophysicist Isaac Smith said the “beauty” of the results is that “they give us really precise places to look for evidence of ancient lakes and riverbeds and hypotheses about the extensive drying out of the Martian climate over billions.” can test for years”.

Mr. Smith believes the bright reflections are due to a type of sound made when rock erodes in water.

The study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, is based on three years of data from Marsis, a radar instrument on board the European Space Agency’s Mars Express.

Images of the planet from a NASA rover confirmed last year On the surface there was once a lake fed by a small river about 3.7 billion years ago.

It is hoped that the sediments found in Jezero Crater could contain traces of life.

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