It’s possible that layers of ice and rock make up Mars’ submerged “lake.”

It's possible that layers of ice and rock make up Mars' submerged "lake."
It’s possible that layers of ice and rock make up Mars’ submerged “lake.”

According to a study, liquid water is not the only cause for abnormal radar emissions.

For a very long time, scientists looking for extraterrestrial life have lived by the maxim “Follow the water.” After all, the watery planet we call home is the only known cradle of life in the universe.

The possibility of finding liquid water on Mars may not be as watertight as previously thought, researchers say in Nature Astronomy on September 26.

Near Mars‘ south pole, a sizable subterranean lake was found in 2018, according to scientists (SN: 7/25/18). This assertion, together with subsequent discoveries that suggested more subterranean liquid water reservoirs on the Red Planet (SN: 9/28/20), sparked hope for the discovery of an extraterrestrial planet that might be habitable.

Red Planet by circling spacecraft :-

However, scientists have since suggested that such findings might not stand up to close examination. One group proposed in 2021 that the strong radar signals that scientists saw might not have been caused by liquid water, but rather clay minerals and frozen brines (SN: 7/16/21).

The depth of the Martian surface can be determined by measuring the timing and intensity of radio waves reflected from the Red Planet by circling spacecraft.

Red Planet by circling spacecraft
Red Planet by circling spacecraft

Another study has since demonstrated that common rock and ice layers can generate many of the same radar signals that were previously attributed to water.

The Cornell University planetary scientist Dan Lalich and his colleagues computed the radio wave reflection properties of flat layers of bedrock, water ice, and carbon dioxide ice, all of which are known to be abundant on Mars. It was a rather straightforward analysis, claims Lalich.

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Subsequently detected by the equipment of a spacecraft :-

The scientists discovered that they could duplicate some of the unusually intense radar emissions that were once considered to be caused by liquid water. When the rock and ice layers are a specific thickness, individual radar signals from the layers combine, according to Lalich.

The result is a louder signal, which is subsequently detected by the equipment of a spacecraft. But according to him, those instruments can’t always distinguish between a radio wave produced by a single layer and one that is the result of multiple layers. The radar “seems to see them as one reflection.”

subsequently detected by the equipment of a spacecraft
subsequently detected by the equipment of a spacecraft

Lalich and his colleagues acknowledge that these findings do not exclude the possibility of liquid water on Mars. This is merely stating that there are different possibilities, he claims.

Aditya Khuller, a planetary scientist at Arizona State University in Tempe who was not involved in the research, describes the latest finding as “a feasible scenario.” It will be challenging for researchers to determine whether liquid water really does exist on Mars until they collect a lot more data from the Red Planet, according to Khuller. “At this point, it’s necessary to keep an open mind.”


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