There is a system of salt lakes on Mars: the discovery is entirely Italian

There is a system of salt lakes on Mars: the discovery is entirely Italian

Under the ice of the Martian South Pole there are 3 saltwater lakes that could host "extreme" life forms

(Photo: Nasa) A water system consisting of three salt lakes hidden under the ice cap of the Mars' South Pole reinvigorates the hope that there are (or have been) life forms on the Red Planet. The new discovery is entirely Italian, and seems to suggest that liquid water in the solar system is more widespread than we thought.

Under the South Pole

Let's go back a couple of years, to 2018. An Italian team discovers that under the ice of the Martian South Pole there is liquid water, probably a brackish lake 20 kilometers in diameter, trapped more than a kilometer below the surface.

Well, there is a small revision to do. There would not be just one hidden lake but three. A real water system, which the researchers - coordinated by Elena Pettinelli and Sebastian Emanuel Lauro of the University of Roma Tre, with Roberto Orosei, of the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) and the participation of Cnr and Italian colleagues from the University of Southern Queensland and Jacobs University in Bremen - have traced the data collected by Marsis (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding) by expanding the survey area and also analyzing with new methodologies. Marsis is the low-frequency radar for the exploration of the subsoil of the Mars Express mission, which, among other things, was designed at Sapienza in Rome and supplied by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) to the European space agency (ESA).

"Compared to 2018 we have greatly enlarged the study area and used a different method of analysis, now the data indicate that there is a larger water system", commented Elena Pettinelli. If two years ago the research had been conducted on an area of ​​20 square kilometers, now it has been reviewed an area of ​​250 kilometers by 300 and "the fact that there are complex hydrological structures suggests that there may be others".

Underwater life?

The observations therefore seem to go towards the confirmation of basins of liquid water under the ice of Mars. But isn't the temperature too low? As previously hypothesized, it is possible that the water of these lakes is so salty that it freezes at much much lower temperatures.

A sort of brine in short, but which could hide secrets. Despite the extreme conditions of temperature, pressure and salinity, in fact, the possibility that there are or have been life forms in these environments is not to be discarded. Indeed, according to the researchers, exploration should continue with greater fervor, focusing precisely on this sector.

"The discovery of an entire system of lakes implies that their formation process is relatively simple and common, and that these lakes probably existed for most of the history of Mars, ”explained Roberto Orosei. "For this reason they could still retain traces of any life forms that could have evolved when Mars had a dense atmosphere, a milder climate and the presence of liquid water on the surface, similar to the early Earth".

However, it must be said that for the moment we do not have the technology to go to Mars and drill more than a kilometer of surface ice to discover what it hides. We need Artemis (NASA's mission to bring humans back to the Moon) and the scientific advances that will follow to begin to open a window towards the Red Planet.

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