Liquid water previously spotted beneath Mars’ ice-covered south pole may just be an illusion, a new study suggests.
n 2018, scientists thought they were looking at the water when they saw bright reflections beneath the polar cap. However, according to new research, the highlights match those of the glowing volcanic plains found dotted across the Red Planet.
Current temperature and pressure make stable liquid water on the planet’s surface unlikely, researchers said.
Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin believe they have a more plausible explanation for the 2018 discovery and suggest it was volcanic rock buried under the ice that was seen.
Lead author Cyril Grima, a planetary scientist at the University of Texas Institute of Geophysics (UTIG), said: “To keep water this close to the surface, you need both a very salty environment and a strong locally generated heat source. , but this does not correspond to what we know of this region.
The South Polar Mirage dissolved when scientists added an imaginary global ice cap to a radar map of Mars.
They discovered that the imaginary ice showed how the planet would appear when viewed through a mile of ice.
This allowed them to compare the features of the entire planet with those under the polar cap.
Mr. Grima noticed bright highlights, much like those seen at the south pole but scattered across the planet.
And many corresponded to the location of the volcanic plains.
Iron-rich lava flows on Earth can leave behind rocks that produce similar reflections.
Scientists suggest other possibilities include mineral deposits in dry riverbeds.
But even though there is no liquid water on Mars, there is plenty of ice on the planet.
The study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, is based on three years of data from Marsis, a radar instrument launched in 2005 aboard the European Space Agency’s Mars Express.