Ever since man went to the moon, space expeditions and explorations have always hovered over humanity. Humans have dreamed of going to Mars, practically since it was discovered. Even with all the expeditions, very little is known about that planet. It is the second smallest in the solar system, having only 10% of the Earth’s mass. Mars also has the highest known mountain in the entire solar system.
The surface of the Red Planet is known for its extreme aridity. And the whole planet is desert with rocks, sand and ice in some parts. Now, new evidence shows that a network of strange features that have been discovered underground at Mars’ south pole may not actually be liquid saltwater lakes .
According to a new analysis, the strange glowing smudges that were collected by radar data from the Mars Express orbiter may have been made from frozen clay. To be more specific, by hydrated aluminum silicates or smectite minerals.
“So far, all the previous articles have only been able to suggest holes in the lakes argument. We are the first article to demonstrate that other material is the most likely cause of observations. Now, our paper offers the first plausible, and considerably more likely, alternative hypothesis to explain the MARSIS observations,” said planetary scientist Isaac Smith of the Planetary Science Institute and York University in Canada.
This started when the team of scientists saw something strange in the data that was collected by MARSIS, which is the sound radar attached to the Mars Express. Underneath the ice cap of Mars was a region that reflected the radar signal in a very strong way. The team found that this consisted of a large pool of liquid water, that is, an underground lake.
Research carried out to monitor this fact showed that this region was not unique. Three other very bright spots were found in the MARSIS data. The discovery was extremely exciting because it suggested that Mars might be habitable by microbial life.
However, other scientists have encountered problems with this. After all, the planet is extremely cold. So cold that it couldn’t have large reservoirs of liquid water, even if it was saturated with salt. So, the situation left a question hanging in the air. If these stains aren’t water, what are they?
After analyzing the data, Smith and his team believe they have found a very plausible explanation.
“Solid clays frozen at cryogenic temperatures can make the reflections. Our study combined theoretical modeling with laboratory measurements and remote sensing observations. Everyone agreed that smectites can do the reflexes. And that smectites are present at the south pole of Mars. It’s the trifeta: measuring the properties of the material, showing that these properties can explain the observation and demonstrating that the materials are present at the place of observation”, he said.
Furthermore, Smith stated that clay is present on nearly 50% of the surface of Mars. And it has a greater concentration in the southern hemisphere, mainly in the southern highlands. There is also abundant evidence that liquid water was present at the Martian south pole more than 100 million years ago.
Because of this, Smith and his team believe that the smectite clays may have formed around the same time and then have been buried beneath the south polar cap. And any ice lost in the clay layer would be replenished in the ice cap above or in the frozen ground below. And so it remains until today.