Scientists have revisited a mysterious signal from the south pole of Mars that has suggested a new potential explanation, and it does not push the hope of finding liquid water on the Red Planet.
In 2018, scientists using data from the European Space Agency Mars Express orbiter’s Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (Mars) instrument was announced liquid proofs could be interpreted as liquid evidence. That signal, with a wonderful bright reflection, came from the south pole of Mars in the last known region of the Skopje. Researchers investigating the observation now suggest that the signal does not come from the ice itself, or indeed from liquid water, but from the geological layers of minerals and carbon dioxide underlying the ice. It happens peculiarly that the thickness of these layers, rather than what they are made of, produces a supermundane thought.
On earththus often shining from liquid water. For example, subglacial lakes like Antarctica’s Lake Vostok, which lay under more than 2 miles (3 kilometers) of ice for millions of years, give off a bright radar signal similar to what was discovered above. Mars. However, just because it is possible that something like this happened on Mars does not guarantee the presence of liquid water.
Related: These dry ice masses on Mars are moving towards its south pole
The research team used radar data from Mars, along with computer simulations to investigate this mystery. Doctors simulated layers of ice and other substances, such as flint, which was formed after ancient volcanic eruptions on Mars, to see how these materials would react to incoming light.
Because an immense amount of carbon dioxide is frozen at the south pole of Mars, Cornell University planetary scientist and lead author of the study Dan Lalich was sure to include this ice sheet in the simulations. And one simulation in particular, with a layer of icy carbon dioxide and below the ice of water, revealed that the separation and thickness of the layer determined the strength of the reflection.
Previous studies carried out by Lalich also found that certain minerals could also cast this kind of reflection. He also believes that layers of red ice are capable of dark dust. Either way, no liquid water is necessary to make the reflection.
“I could have used rocky layers or even mainly water ice dust and gotten similar results,” he said it is said. “The point of this paper is really the composition of basal layers of less than thickness and separation layers.”
The new research doesn’t mean that liquid water doesn’t exist somewhere on Mars, however.
“Nothing we’ve done disproves the possible existence of liquid water there,” Lalich said. “We just think the hypothesis is more consistent with other observations than interference. I’m not sure there’s anything missing from the exercise that can prove either side of this definitive right and wrong debate.”
Whether under the ice or deep beneath the earth’s scorched red surface, water — and perhaps traces of life — may still be lurking somewhere.
The research is described in a paper published Sept. 28 Nature Astronomy (Opens in a new tab).
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