2021-06-27

There may be more water on Mars than scientists thought

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There may be more water on Mars than scientists thought

A pair of scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory recently published a new paper. The paper describes dozens of similar radar reflections found around the South Pole. The researchers analyzed a broader set of data collected by Mars Express. However, a finding revealed by these data is puzzling. Scientists say that many radar reflections that indicate water below the surface are in areas that are too cold, and it is impossible for the water to remain liquid under such conditions.

JPL scientist Jeffrey Plaut said that whether these signals are liquid water is a mystery, but scientists know that these signals seem to be much more extensive than the original research found. Plaut said that either liquid water is common under the Martian South Pole, or the signal is indicating something else. Initially, the radar signal interpreted as groundwater was found in an area on Mars called Antarctic layer sediments.

The name of the area comes from the alternating layers of water ice, dry ice and dust that have been deposited there for thousands of years. Scientists are very interested in this particular area because they believe that these layers provide a record of the inclination of the Martian axis over time. Researchers send radio waves to the surface of the planet, which allows them to peer under the ice and map them in detail.

Radio waves lose energy as they pass through the material below the surface, and are reflected back to the spacecraft with weakened signals. However, in some cases, the signal returned from the suspected groundwater area is brighter than the surface signal. These signals are interpreted as meaning the presence of liquid water, because water is known to strongly reflect radio waves. Prout said the map brings scientists a few steps closer to understanding the scope and cause of mysterious radar reflections.