The south pole of Mars could hide a network of saltwater ponds and a huge underground lake, which would increase the possibility of the existence of small Martian aquatic organisms.
Italian scientists reported their findings on Monday, two years after identifying what they believe to be a huge underground lake. They expanded the coverage area by about 320 kilometers (a couple hundred miles), using additional data from a radar from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express probe.
In the most recent study published in the journal Nature Astronomy, scientists presented new evidence for this underground saltwater lake, which is believed to cover an area of between 20 and 30 kilometers (12 and 18 miles) and is located 1 , 6 kilometers (one mile) below the ice surface.
Even more surprising is that they also identified three other smaller water bodies adjacent to the lake. These ponds appear to be of different sizes and are separated from the main lake.
Around 4 billion years ago, Mars was warm and humid, like Earth. But it eventually morphed into the barren, barren planet we know today.
The team of researchers, led by Sebastian Emanuel Lauro of Roma Tre University, used a method similar to that used on Earth to detect underground lakes beneath Antarctica and the Canadian Arctic.
They based their findings on more than 100 radar observations from the Mars Express probe between 2010 and 2019. The spacecraft was launched in 2003.
The possibility of all this water raises the likelihood of microbial life on – or within – Mars. High concentrations of salt possibly prevent the water from freezing, the scientists noted. The south pole of Mars is estimated to have a surface temperature of -113 degrees Celsius (-172 degrees Fahrenheit), and it gets higher at greater depths.
These watery bodies are of potential biological interest and “future missions to Mars should focus on this region,” the scientists wrote.