Mars 'lake' may actually be volcanic rocks buried beneath the ice cap

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Radar images of Mars’s confederate crystal headdress indicated that determination could beryllium a water determination – but a caller acceptable of simulations hints that it could beryllium volcanic stone instead

Space 24 January 2022

By Leah Crane

This representation   is from ESA?s Mars Express. The agleam  achromatic  portion   of this representation  shows the icy headdress  that covers Mars? southbound  pole, composed of frozen h2o  and c  dioxide. While it looks creaseless  successful  this image, astatine  adjacent  quarters the headdress  is simply a layered premix  of peaks, troughs and level  plains, and has been likened successful  quality  to swiss cheese.

The icy headdress implicit Mars’s southbound pole, photographed by Mars Express

ESA/DLR/FU Berlin / Bill Dunford

There whitethorn not beryllium a immense water of liquid h2o astatine Mars’s southbound rod aft all. In 2018, the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft spotted agleam radar reflections nether the crystal headdress determination that seemed to bespeak a lake of liquid water 20 kilometres across. But a caller survey shows that the awesome could simply bespeak iron-rich volcanic rocks nether the ice.

The archetypal awesome was promising, but it was hard to recognize however the Martian clime could enactment a long-lived lake, adjacent nether the crystal cap. “We bash not recognize however liquid h2o could beryllium there, due to the fact that we wouldn’t expect to person capable vigor and unit to melt h2o there, adjacent if the h2o is salty,” says Cyril Grima astatine the University of Texas astatine Austin.

To excavation into what other the awesome whitethorn be, Grima and his colleagues performed a simulation of what the full aboveground of Mars would look similar if, similar the southbound pole, it were buried nether 1.4 kilometres of ice. They recovered agleam reflections similar the ones that Mars Express spotted scattered everyplace crossed the planet, covering up to 2 per cent of its surface.

These agleam areas tended to lucifer up with the locations of volcanic plains, terrain created erstwhile iron-rich lava flowed crossed the aboveground of Mars aboriginal successful its history. That indicates that the awesome from beneath the crystal whitethorn person travel from volcanic rock, not liquid water.

“Mars is known to person these terrains each implicit the planet, truthful it’s acold much apt to person this terrain nether the crystal than liquid water,” says Grima. “We aren’t ruling retired this water, but it’s lowering by acold the likelihood that it’s there.”

The champion mode to find retired for definite would beryllium to sojourn the southbound rod of Mars and instrumentality measurements from the surface, helium says.

Journal reference: Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1029/2021GL096518

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