Scientists detect an underground lake at Mars' Southern pole. But it's c-c-c-o-l-d.
If confirmed by future observations, this would be the most significant discovery of liquid water on Mars yet.
Underneath one mile of ice at the southern pole of Mars is a large, stable body of water, scientists have concluded.
The spacecraft known as Mars Express deployed an instrument in 2005 called Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS), which uses radar in the 4-5 MHz range, that studied the southern pole of the planet from about mid-2012 to December 2014. The MARSIS craft used low-frequency electromagnetic waves to “see” what reflects back from the planet surface, and every indication from that collected data involving 29 separate observations points to one conclusion: The body of water is real.
It’s likely composed of liquid water, at about -10 Celsius, and salts of sodium, magnesium, and calcium, which are abundant on the surface of Mars. The salts would allow a lower melting point.
The Mars Express spacecraft with 40-meter MARSIS antenna deployed. (Image by NASA/JPL/CORBY WASTE)
There have been previous studies that have indicated water on Mars and other evidence also exists for water on the surface of the planet, including condensation accumulating on surface landers, as well as subterranean ice deposits that have been discovered.
Of course, when there’s water, life should logically follow, right?
It’s possible. According to Roberto Orosei, a co-investigator of the MARSIS instrument at the University of Bologna in Italy and lead author of the new study, “There are microorganisms that are capable of surviving well below zero [on Earth] even without being in contact with water, and there are microorganisms that can use the salt, presumably the salt in the water on Mars... for their metabolism."
The abstract of the study, published in Science, reads: “The presence of liquid water at the base of the martian polar caps has long been suspected but not observed... Radar profiles collected between May 2012 and December 2015 contain evidence of liquid water trapped below the ice of the South Polar Layered Deposits. Anomalously bright subsurface reflections are evident within a well-defined, 20-kilometer-wide zone centered at 193°E, 81°S, which is surrounded by much less reflective areas. Quantitative analysis of the radar signals shows that this bright feature has high relative dielectric permittivity (>15), matching that of water-bearing materials. We interpret this feature as a stable body of liquid water on Mars.”
Artistic impression of the Mars Express spacecraft probing the southern hemisphere of Mars, superimposed to a color mosaic of a portion of Planum Australe. The study area is highlighted using a THEMIS IR image mosaic. Subsurface echo power is color coded and deep blue corresponds to the strongest reflections, which are interpreted as being caused by the presence of water. (Image by USGS ASTROGEOLOGY SCIENCE CENTER/ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY/ESA/INAF/DAVIDE COERO BORGA)
The radar profile of the region studied resembles that of our own planet, with subglacial lakes underneath Greenland and Antarctica.
The study needs to be further peer-reviewed and the results verified. Indeed, a Chinese mission to Mars is planning to do exactly that in about two years.
"I can't absolutely prove it's water, but I sure can't think of anything else that looks like this thing does other than liquid water," said Richard Zurek, chief scientist for the Mars Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, unaffiliated with the study.
So… when do we all move to Mars?
Asking for a friend.
Pay attention to the decisions made by the provinces.
- China leads the world in numerous green energy categories.
- CO2 emissions in the country totaling more than all coal emissions in the U.S. have recently emerged.
- This seems to be an administrative-induced blip on the way towards a green energy tipping point.
NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller is coming back to Big Think to answer YOUR questions! Here's all you need to know to submit your science-related inquiries.
Big Think's amazing audience has responded so well to our videos from NASA astronomer and Assistant Director for Science Communication Michelle Thaller that we couldn't wait to bring her back for more!
And this time, she's ready to tackle any questions you're willing to throw at her, like, "How big is the Universe?", "Am I really made of stars?" or, "How long until Elon Musk starts a colony on Mars?"
All you have to do is submit your questions to the form below, and we'll use them for an upcoming Q+A session with Michelle. You know what to do, Big Thinkers!
Build up, tear down—new technology stirs up a cycle of progress and cynicism we've seen all throughout history.
- "Every time that there's a new technology, particularly around media, there's a set of outcries around how that media is corrupting culture or how it's destroying certain aspects of our life," says entrepreneur and author Elad Gil.
- In some cases there are real concerns, but taking a historical view can quell unnecessary panic. Progress and cynicism work in a cyclical fashion. New tech is unveiled, the media builds it up, then the media tears it down in a wave of backlash.
- Today we worry about kids and smartphones; 80 years ago we worried about kids and the radio; same cynicism, different day.
- Technology lifts the lid on human potential and quality of life, says Gil. We should be duly cautious, but optimism is more valuable (and arguably more rational) than pessimism.
Calling all big thinkers!
- The next Mega Millions drawing is scheduled for Oct. 23 at 11 pm E.T.
- The odds of any one ticket winning are about 1 in 300 million.
- This might be a record-setting jackpot, but that doesn't mean you have a better chance of winning.
If you want to be a better and more passionate communicator, these tips are important.
If you identify as being a socially conscious person in today's age of outrage, you've likely experienced the bewildering sensation when a conversation that was once harmless, suddenly doesn't feel that way anymore. Perhaps you're out for a quick bite with family, friends, or coworkers when the conversation takes a turn. Someone's said something that doesn't sit right with you, and you're unsure of how to respond. Navigating social situations like this is inherently stressful.
Below are five expert-approved tips on how to maintain your cool and effectively communicate.
Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my tsundoku.
- Many readers buy books with every intention of reading them only to let them linger on the shelf.
- Statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb believes surrounding ourselves with unread books enriches our lives as they remind us of all we don't know.
- The Japanese call this practice tsundoku, and it may provide lasting benefits.
Money makes the world go 'round. Unfortunately, it can make both children and adults into materialists.
- Keeping a gratitude journal caused children to donate 60 percent more to charitable causes.
- Other methods suggested by researchers include daily gratitude reflection, gratitude posters, and keeping a "gratitude jar."
- Materialism has been shown to increase anxiety and depression and promote selfish attitudes and behavior.
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