Have you heard the exciting news? There's a lake on Mars...probably!
For three years, the European Space Agency's (ESA) Mars Express spacecraft has collected radar data from the southern polar ice cap on Mars. Scientists analyzed the data, and have now revealed there's strong evidence to suggest a 12-mile wide lake of liquid water a mile beneath the ice.
This finding presents the first evidence for stable bodies
of water on the Red Planet. Water has been found on Mars before, but it comes and goes with the
seasons or evaporates off the camera lens on rovers.
So how did the scientists determine there was water? The Mars Express spacecraft used a ground-penetrating radar, which produced different reflections based on different materials found in the ground. This type of technology is also used on Earth, so scientists have a lot of data to compare what types of reflections are produced from soil vs. rock vs. water.
The data, made up of many radar pulses from 2012 to 2015, strongly suggested the material under the ice cap was liquid. In fact, it looked very similar to lakes found under the ice here on Earth! The data also suggested that the water is very salty in order to not freeze like the ice cap above.
Nothing is 100 percent proven yet, though. Other scientists working with other radar spacecraft are hoping to confirm this finding, but have yet to do so. There are many other places to explore on Mars with the potential of housing under-ice lakes. If we find and confirm water under the ice on Mars, could we maybe also find life?
Interested in learning more about the mysteries of Mars? You're in luck! This Friday, July 27 is our Mars Madness celebration at LSC. On that night, the Red Planet will shine brighter in our sky than it has in the last 15 years. Join us as we break out the telescopes and look to the skies, plus planetarium shows, hands-on experiments, special presentations, exhibitions, and more. Click here to get tickets.