Feb 5, 2022

Liquid Water Confirmed Beneath Martian South Polar Cap

Posted by in category: space

A Southwest Research Institute scientist measured the properties of ice-brine mixtures as cold as-145 degrees Fahrenheit to help confirm that salty water likely exists between grains of ice or sediment under the ice cap at Mars ’ south pole. Laboratory measurements conducted by SwRI geophysicist Dr. David Stillman support oddly bright reflections detected by the MARSIS subsurface sounding radar aboard ESA’s Mars Express orbiter.

With a 130-foot antenna, MARSIS flies over the planet, bouncing radio waves over a selected area and then receiving and analyzing the echoes or reflections. Any near-surface liquid water should send a strong bright signal, whereas the radar signal for ice and rock would be much smaller.

Because conventional models assume the Mars south polar cap experiences temperatures much lower than the melting point of water, many scientists have questioned the presence of liquid water. Clay, hydrated salts, and saline ices have been proposed as potential explanations for the source of the bright basal reflections. The Italian-led team investigating the proposed phenomena used previously published data, simulations, and new laboratory measurements.

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