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Astronomy: Is there life on Mars? Discovery of water provides tantalizing clue – News – The Columbus Dispatch

The European Space Agency has carried out it once more. It has scooped NASA with a brand new discovery: a subglacial lake on Mars, with probably billions of gallons of liquid water.

The ESA staff printed its findings within the July 25 challenge of Science journal, with lead writer Roberto Orosei of the National Insitute of Astrophysics in Bologna, Italy. Scientists found the lake utilizing radar from the MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding) spacecraft, which has been orbiting the planet since 2003.

It took them many passes over the glacier at Mars’ south pole to see the signature of the lake, which is about 12 miles throughout. The glacier there is about 200 miles throughout, and the MARSIS probe should orbit straight over the lake to get good radar alerts, which replicate strongly from the floor of the water.

Subglacial lakes exist on Earth, each on the South Pole and Greenland. The immense strain of miles of ice on high, together with a salty atmosphere, can soften the ice, leaving a briny combination of water. If this will occur on Earth, why not on Mars?

While it’s inconceivable to show conclusively that the radar is reflecting from water, the ESA staff dominated out most different doubtless prospects. The sign they see is in keeping with radar reflections of subglacial water from Earth-orbiting satellites.

NASA additionally has a satellite tv for pc orbiting Mars, referred to as the MRO (Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter), which additionally makes use of radar to map the floor. However, MRO hasn’t seen a sign in the identical place, most likely as a result of its radar makes use of a unique wavelength, which makes it much less penetrating. The lake detected by MARSIS is buried underneath nearly a mile of ice.

The significance of this discovery is that each one kinds of life that we learn about want liquid water with the intention to survive. There is lots of ice, however no standing water, on the floor of Mars.

Of course, the identical could possibly be mentioned of the floor of Earth’s South Pole. While there are not any dwelling microbes there, for those who dig down just a few meters, some hardy microbes exist, consuming the minerals on rocks to get vitality.

The new lake on Mars could possibly be a time capsule, containing microbes from billions of years in the past, when Mars was hotter (and our Sun burned hotter). If life existed on Mars at an earlier time, its secrets and techniques could possibly be locked inside this ice-enshrined lake.

Life is amazingly adaptable, and microbial life has been discovered at inhospitable environments the place none was thought doable. As lengthy as there is chemical vitality, microbes appear to discover a option to exist. Recent analysis, in search of life in unlikely spots on Earth, has proved that life is way more adaptable than beforehand thought.

The implications of life on Mars would revolutionize our fascinated with the likelihood of extraterrestrial life. Many religions train that life was positioned on Earth by God. But is it inconceivable to assume that God might need positioned life elsewhere, too? Whether or not you’re a non secular particular person, it could be breathtaking to know that life exists on one other planet, even when solely at a subglacial lake.

The subsequent step could be to plan a robotic mission to Mars succesful of drilling by way of the ice. I say robotic as a result of we don’t wish to contaminate the supply with all of the microbes that hitchhike on people. Keeping Mars pristine from Earth’s microbes is vital to discovering clear proof of previous life on Mars.

Kenneth Hicks is a professor of physics and astronomy at Ohio University in Athens.

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