Lakes are one of the most common features on Earth. They are a hotspot for different animals to come together and carry out life sustaining activities. Outside of the biological implications, lakes are an inevitability on any surface that has flowing water on it. Finding liquid flowing water on Mars has been a life-long dream for a lot of researchers who have dedicated their lives to the study of the red planet. What such a discovery would mean is uncertain at the moment; however, there exists a very strong possibility that if there is liquid water somewhere, it has life as well.
Researchers took the world by surprise in 2018 when they announced the discovery of a liquid water lake under the Southern Pole of the red planet. This discovery has been advanced upon as researchers now claim that the lake was not the sole body of water. Scientists have found a network of interconnected lakes under the Martian South Pole. The lakes are buried under the ice caps of the frigid South Pole of Mars, but it is liquid water, none the less. This is a huge discovery as Mars has started to shed its image of red and arid planet.
The reason for the existence of such lakes is not clear yet. However, researchers think that it is possibly the result of some niche conditions exclusive to the region of Mars, where the lakes have been found. It could be that an active volcano under the ice sheet has melted some of the ice from beneath to form these lakes. This discovery is extremely important because instead of just one lake, we have discovered a whole system of them, which means that the processes that lead to their formation can also be common and easy to replicate.
The researchers used a relatively simple technique to find these lakes. They bounced radio waves off the surface and measured the echoes, changes in which could help them identify if any liquid water bodies exist or not. Since liquid water reflects radio signals much better than other materials, researchers could easily identify whether there was any liquid water or not. The researchers have based their claims on the detection of reflected signals that were stronger when coming from subsurface as compared to the surface. There are no other phenomena that can produce such signals. Therefore, it is safe to assume that these claims are accurate.
The water that has been found is extremely salty as the temperature of the water bodies is estimated to be about -68.15 degrees Celsius, which is only possible if it has a lot of salt mixed in it. These lakes are probably historic and may have existed for most of Mars’ history. This means that they might hold some traces of life that may have evolved when Mars had a dense atmosphere. The implications of this discovery are huge, and it might lead to dedicated missions to the South Pole of Mars to study and collect information about these lakes.