ESA’s Mars Express orbiter has found evidence of liquid water under an ice cap in the south polar region of Mars. Based on data from the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS), researchers have found three new underground lakes, the largest of which measures 20 by 30 kilometers. The scientific journal Nature Astronomy reports.
In 2018, the Mars Express team discovered that the ice caps of Mars are not covered with ice, but in fact have large underground lakes with liquid water, writes New Atlas. From May 2012 to December 2015, the orbiter mapped a lake 20 kilometers wide under 1.5 kilometers of solid ice. When re-analyzing at the same depth, scientists stumbled upon other bodies of water.
A more thorough analysis of the same data accumulated over about 9 years of “sounding” has demonstrated that this lake is not the only one – there is a whole network of them.
The lakes are located near the visible ice cap of the south pole of Mars in the Planum Australe region under ice covering an area of approximately 200 square kilometers.
Most planetary scientists assume that in the early epochs of its existence, Mars was very similar to Earth. At that time, it had a thick atmosphere, oceans of water and a fairly mild climate, that is, the planet was potentially suitable for the origin of life.
However, similar conditions existed on Mars for a relatively short time, about a billion years after its formation. At the beginning of the so-called Hesperian period, about 3.6 billion years ago, it turned into a lifeless desert. Almost the entire atmosphere of the planet and its water reserves have escaped into space or turned into ice reserves.