Out of all of the mysterious and intriguing worlds inhabiting the bewitching Wonderland which is our Solar System, the Red Planet Mars has managed to sing the most despicable of all sirens’ songs to humankind. This small, rugged, rust-colored world is our Earth’s close neighbor in space, in addition to the planet that has tantalized the joys of those people who want to answer the deep question of whether or not we’re alone in the Cosmos. But despite its appeal, Mars has not shown itself to be occupied, and Earth remains the only planet that’s really known to host life. Needless to say, this doesn’t mean that life is not out there somewhere in space–it merely means that we haven’t as yet discovered it, and it apparently has not as yet discovered us. In July 2018, a group of astronomers announced they have discovered evidence that heavy beneath the frigid, frozen ice cap of the Martian south pole lies a hidden lake of liquid water–the first to be found pooling on the Red Earth. Life as we know it is dependent upon the presence of liquid water.
NASA contributed about 50 percent of this instrument, with direction of the U.S. part led by the bureau’s Jet Propulsion Laborator (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
The research paper, authored by the Italian MARSIS group, explains how a”bright spot” was found in radar signs approximately a mile under the surface of the ice cap at the Planum Australe area. This powerful radar expression was determined by the study’s authors to be liquid water. This interpretation is important because where liquid water exists, life as we understand it might also exist. The existence of liquid water suggests the possibility–though by no means the guarantee –of the existence of alien life on Mars.
“The bright spot seen in the MARSIS information is an unusual feature and incredibly intriguing. It definitely warrants further research. Additional lines of evidence ought to be pursued to check the interpretation,” Dr. Jim Green commented in a July 25, 2018 JPL Press Release.
“We expect to use different tools to examine it further in the future,” Dr. Green added.
One of those new tools will land on Mars late in 2018. The tool, NASA’s InSight lander will take a heat probe that’s designed to burrow down to the Martian surface up to 15 feet. InSight was constructed from the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and it’s scheduled to present important new data regarding just how much heat manages to escape from the Red Planet and in which the liquid water may pool near its surface.
The search for liquid water is now the inspiration behind NASA’s exploration to the outer regions of the Solar System, where temperate ocean-moon-worlds have the capability to host delicate life forms. Even dwarf planets, such as Ceres, the largest denizen of this Main Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter, may help scientists develop a fresh understanding of how water is stored in rugged”buckets” that carry water throughout our Solar System.
The concealed Martian lake is most likely extremely cold and very sour. The hunt for additional buried, hidden layers of water on Mars has intensified, and the hunt is on for other bodies of water on Mars that may be more hospitable to delicate living animals. “It’s a really exciting result: the first sign of a briny aquifer on Mars,” commented Dr. David Stillman at a July 25, 2018 Science Magazine Press Release. Dr. Stillman is a geophysicist in the Southwest Research Institute at Boulder, Colorado, who wasn’t part of this study.
The team of scientists feel that the lake is much like one of the interconnected pools located several miles beneath the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland, based on Dr. Martin Siegert at the exact same Press Release.
Planetary scientists generally feel that water gushed throughout the surface of the Red Planet countless years back, when it owned a warmer and warmer setting. This water is thought to have carved gullies and channels which are still visible on Mars today. But now low atmospheric pressures imply that any surface water will boil off. By comparison, water manages to live frozen in polar ice caps, in addition to in subsurface ice deposits. Some of those ice deposits are mapped by MARSIS.
On our planet, microorganisms are found swimming at the subglacial lakes of Antarctica. These hearty little germs have been able to survive in isolation from the outside Antarctica for as long as 35 million years–or more. This is because a high number of those 400 subglacial lakes which have been discovered so far appear to be hydraulically tied to one another. Therefore, planetary scientists believe it is reasonable to conclude that microorganisms may swim around almost everywhere under the Antarctic ice. Organisms, such as these, inhabiting areas generally thought of as inhospitable, are termed extremophiles. Extremophiles could be located on distant worlds dwelling in surroundings that appear to be more hostile to life.
The discovery of small tidbits of life swimming around in the subglacial lakes of Mars could have deep significance for humanity. This is because it will be the first life to be found on a world other than Earth. Additionally, discovery of those living tidbits would contribute to our scientific understanding of the incidence of life in our Solar System. Ice-covered oceans are considered to slosh around under the frozen cubes of Jupiter’s moons Europa and Ganymede, in addition to Saturn’s moons Titan and Enceladus. This indicates that the discovery of geologically persistent liquid water on a lot of distant planetary bodies raises the intriguing possibility that aquatic life-forms could be abundant during our Solar System.
The amazing Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) made the first telescopic observation of Mars in 1610, with his crude small”spyglass”, which was among the earliest telescopes to be used for astronomical purposes. During that same century, other astronomers also observed that the polar ice caps on Mars, using the very small telescopes of that age. These ancient astronomers were still able to find out the Martian rotation interval, in addition to its axial tilt. These observations were largely made when Mars was at its closest approach to Earth. This very first map of Mars was followed by a string of progressively improved maps from 1877 on.
The ingenious tale of”What does Raccoon Poop Look Like” inhabiting Mars started when astronomers wrongly believed they had detected the spectroscopic signature of water in its atmosphere. This appealing notion of Martian life became increasingly popular with astronomers and the general public alike, and it became particularly popular when the American astronomer Perceval Lowell (1855-1916) believed that he had detected a community of artificial canals carved by intelligent beings on the Martian surface. But these linear features were finally proven to be only optical illusions.
Also during the 1920s, astronomers could determine that the air of the rusty-red world harbors only very small amounts of water and oxygen. Astronomers of that age also successfully discovered that the surface temperature of the Red Earth ranged from a really freezing -121 degrees Fahrenheit to a comfortable 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
Two decades later, in 1947, the Dutch-American astronomer Gerard Kuiper (1905-1973) revealed that the thin atmosphere of Mars is composed primarily of carbon dioxide which added up to roughly double the quantity found within our planet’s atmosphere.
Mars is the fourth planet from our Sun, and like another strong inner planets–Mercury, Venus, and Earth–it basks in the brilliant sunlight flowing out of our Star. It’s famed for its reddish hue that’s due to an abundance of iron sulfide coating its surface. Additionally, the surface of Mars is scarred with a high number of impact craters that appear quite similar to those observed on Earth’s Moon.
Mars has a rotational period and changing seasons such as our own world. But, unlike our Earth’s large Moon (the largest moon in our Sun’s internal kingdom), Mars is orbited by a strange and fascinating duo of little potato-shaped moons.
For the last two decades, cameras in orbit around Mars have sent back to Earth numerous displaying pictures. These pictures reveal that Mars sports a surface that’s dotted with little valleys which were formed into slopes which bear an eerie resemblance in their form to gullies that led from gushing flooding of liquid water on our planet. The Martian gullies are regarded as relatively young geological features that are less than a few million years old–and some can even be more young than that. A few million years is not a lengthy time on geological time scales. These more recent observations provide planetary scientists valuable clues that great amounts of life-sustaining liquid water might still be lingering on Mars, and that this water might have been responsible for carving the surface gullies.
Despite the fact that the surface of the Red Planet is not particularly life-friendly today, there’s sufficient evidence indicating that very long past its climate might have been such that water in its liquid phase pooled on its surface.
Mars sports two permanent polar ice caps which are composed primarily of water ice. Frozen carbon dioxide builds up as a relatively thin layer in a pole’s Martian winter. Throughout that frigid season the sticks are enshrouded in heavy blankets of constant and continuous darkness. The cold Martian winters freeze its surface, and cause the deposition of 25-30percent of the air to freeze into slabs of carbon dioxide ice (dry ice). When the sticks are swept by warm sunshine during the summer and spring, the frozen carbon dioxide sublimates. These seasonal adjustments transport great quantities of water vapor and dust. This leads to Earth-like frost, in addition to large cirrus clouds.
The two Martian poles display layered attributes, which are termed polar-layered residue . These deposits are brought on by seasonal melting and deposition of ice together with dust from the roaring Martian dust storms that sweep across the surface of Earth. Precious information regarding the past climate of Mars may become shown in these layers, which have been maintained in a type of deep freeze since early times. This has been compared to how tree ring patterns and ice core data show climate changes over the passing of years on Earth. Both of the Martian polar caps also reveal grooved features which were likely due to winds. The grooves are also affected by the number of dustin other words, the more dust there is, the darker the surface. However, there are different theories which were suggested to describe the large Martian grooves.
The south polar ice cap of Mars sports big pits, troughs and flat mesas that give it a”Swiss cheese look.” In contast, the north polar ice cap exhibits a horizontal surface with smaller pits than those located in the south polar ice cap–providing the north polar ice cap the look of”cottage cheese”, instead of”Swiss cheese.”
The radar data acquired by MARSIS offers strong evidence that there’s a pond of liquid water buried under layers of dust and ice from the south polar region of the Red Planet. Indeed, new evidence that Mars had an early watery past is sprinkled all over its surface in the kind of enormous dried-out river valley networks and enormous outflow channels. These tattle-tale attributes have been clearly imaged from the spacecraft. Orbiters, together with landers and rovers, have been investigating the Martian surface for decades, discovering minerals that can only form in the presence of liquid water.
Liquid water can’t exist on the Red Planet’s surface now, so astronomers are on the search for subsurface water.
The potential presence of water in its liquid phase on Mars (which may have supplied a habitable environment for delicate forms of life) was predicted by Dr. Stephen Clifford back in 1987. Dr. Clifford is a senior scientist in the Planetary Science Institute (PSI) at Tucson, Arizona.
With reference to the recent findings of ESA’s Mars Express, published in the June 25, 2018 issue of the journal Science, Dr. Clifford mentioned:”I feel that the evidence that the paper’s writers have presented for the existence of liquid water at the bottom of the south polar layered deposits, in this location, is highly persuasive. It’s a finding which ought to be closely examined by the remainder of the radar community to be sure we can rule out other alternative explanations–something I feel that the writers have already made an superb attempt of doing.”
No matter the degree of polar basal melting on Mars now, it was almost certainly much greater in the past, included Dr. Clifford at a July 27, 2018 PSI Press Release. Geological evidence indicates that the south polar layered deposits blanketed a region that has been roughly two times as big 2 billion years ago than it is now. It follows that there was much more ice about to melt. The geothermal heat flux of Mars–that results from the decay of naturally occurring radioactive elements in the crust–is also believed to have been up to three times larger during that early time. This would have reduced the essential thickness of polar ice for basal melting.
Dr. Clifford continued to remark:
“The job I did 30 years back was essentially a theoretical exercise that thought what we then knew about the broad network of subglacial lakes and channels which exist in the bottom of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets and analyzed its possible significance to the Martian polar caps. It’s certainly satisfying the MARSIS radar team has found evidence that shows that this early theoretical work has some connection to reality.”