A Giant Underground Lake on Mars! | Breaking News

A Giant Underground Lake on Mars! | Breaking News

If you listen carefully, you can hear the
sound of space nerds everywhere jumping up and down and shrieking with excitement. Because scientists just announced that they
found a giant underground lake on Mars! This isn’t the first time we’ve found
evidence for some type of liquid water on Mars. But those were streaks of it, and they only
show up seasonally, and we’re not even totally sure what they
are. We’ve never found a permanent body of water
on Mars, or anything close to this much of it in one
place. And best of all, there’s a chance that if
life exists, or ever existed on Mars, we might find evidence of it in this lake. In the new paper, published today in the journal
Science, a group of Italian researchers looked at data
from MARSIS, an instrument on the European Space Agency’s
Mars Express orbiter. MARSIS uses radar to look below the surface
of Mars. It works kind of like the radar we use to
detect planes here on Earth, by sending out radio waves and measuring how
they bounce back, you can get an idea of what’s out there. With MARSIS, scientists can also use the data to figure out some of the properties of the stuff the waves passed through and
bounced off of. For this study, they looked at three years’
worth of observations of Mars’s south pole. It’s covered in a layer of mostly water
ice, but about 1.5 kilometers below the surface, the waves reflected off of something weirdly
bright and shiny, especially compared to the area around it. Something big. Turns out, it was exactly what you’d expect
to see if the waves were reflecting off of a boundary
between ice and liquid water. The researchers looked into a few other possibilities, like that it was a layer of frozen carbon
dioxide, but when they ran the numbers, liquid water was the only scenario that made
sense. They found that this water stretches across
an area about 20 kilometers wide, and is either in a separate layer or mixed
with some sediment in what’s possibly the most exciting sludge
humanity has ever found. But no matter what form it takes, that is
a ton of liquid water! Normally, it’s way too cold at Mars’s
poles for water to stay liquid it’s thought to be around -68 degrees Celsius
over there. So for liquid water to exist, it must be full
of salts that lower its melting point so much salt that it’s more like brine than
water. Which brings us to the question on everyone’s
minds: What does this discovery mean for the possibility
of life on Mars? Well, first things first: even if life could
survive in this underground lake, that doesn’t mean it’s there. This is not evidence for life on Mars. But it does raise some fascinating new possibilities. Liquid water is essential for life as we know
it, which is why practically all of our search
for life on other worlds revolves around water. We’ve found evidence for lakes and rivers
on Mars, but until now we thought they vanished billions
of years ago. So finding a massive underground lake there
today changes things. A lot. The problem is, the water would be an extremely
harsh environment it’s full of salts, and freezing cold. Some especially hardy microbes, known as extremophiles, can live in places no other life on Earth
could survive, but these conditions are even worse. So to learn more about whether life could
survive in Mars’s underground lake, we turned to Nilton Rennó, an astrobiology
expert at the University of Michigan. According to Rennó, the water is too cold
for life as we know it to survive and probably also too salty. But that doesn’t mean there’s definitely
no life there. If there’s some source of heat below the
surface that we don’t know about, it could mean the water is warmer and probably
less salty than we think. Maybe to the point that life could survive. The other potential problem is the chemical composition of the salts dissolved
in the lake. We’re not talking table salt here this stuff is made up of perchlorates, chlorine-containing compounds that are toxic
to humans. Martian soil is full of them. So if you ever get a chance to visit Mars’s
underground lake, do not lick it! But just because something is toxic to humans
doesn’t mean it’s toxic to all life! In fact, there are microbes here on Earth
that actually feed on perchlorates. Still, unless the water is much warmer and
less salty than we think, it doesn’t look like life could stay alive
in Mars’s underground lake. Or at least … not right now. Mars used to be much warmer and wetter than
it is today. And according to Rennó, ancient microbes could be preserved in the
water for millions, if not billions of years. Which means we now have a fantastic place
to search for life on Mars. Of course, sending a mission to Mars to look for life a kilometer and a half below
the surface is easier said than done. But maybe not impossible! For more details on how we could look for
evidence of life in this underground lake, plus more information
about the research behind this discovery, we did a whole separate
episode over on SciShow Space because we’re THAT
excited about this! You can go to youtube.com/scishowspace to
check it out. In the meantime, thanks for watching this
special Breaking News episode of SciShow, and don’t forget to go to youtube.com/scishow
and subscribe!

48 Replies to “A Giant Underground Lake on Mars! | Breaking News

  1. This info has been known for years to anyone that looked over all the images of Mars from JAXA and the European Space Agency(ESA). You can see what looks like trees, rivers, and other structures that are geometric in shape. Look over the images…..

  2. mars cave guard https://marsmobile.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/raw/?rawid=0707MR0030040140402483E01_DXXX&s=707

  3. If we did find life on another planet what would it be like? Would it have DNA? Cell membranes? Organelles? How far from life as we know it can it get before it is unrecogizable?

  4. Immediately went to the twitter page of the Mare Internum webcomic author when I found this out but of course she was already on top of it.

  5. Guys why the egg doesnt break when you push two edges of it between your hands ? (in horizontal position)? Whats the science behind it?

  6. If Mars, why not Titan?… …or even Pluto which has water ice and an atmosphere? Here come the Beverly Hillbillies and the "water frackers" 😉

  7. Now brace yourself again people Nexus magazine may be able to enlighten us who the Aliens in the Big Mothership at Mt Warning near Lismore NSW Australia were in 1981……at a place where it was well know that the Motherships were being seen now and then in the State Forest just ask the Lismore Police Station for the reports…….1981……um Venus?? just a guess……

  8. Wait I can't lick the lake? Geez Hank you ruin all my fun.

    First you tell me not to bath in sulfuric acid, then you tell me not to go jogging on Venus, and now I can't even lick martian lakes.

    Is there anything on my bucket list I CAN do? Huh Hank? Next you'll be telling me not to add space lettuce on my sandwich. You'll be like "But James, it could be poisenous and have lethal bacteria in it." You're no fun sir. No fun

  9. So wait. We measured 1.5km under the surface with sat rad from orbit but we had to send a lander to dig 12 feet to learn the composition and temperature of mars core?

  10. This would be a great place to develop methods of making our own DNA resistant to radiation for trips to our closest neighboring star. It would be a logical place to put a dry dock for spaceships to be built, less gravity to lift off from. It sounded plausible to Ray Bradbury, and with a lake like that to start with, it does make developing a colony a whole lot easier, if we can get to it to distill it for agriculture.

  11. Considering that we keep finding caves on Earth with living organisms completely separated from the rest of the surface for millions of years, I'm pretty damn sure that Mars could have the exact same thing happening.

  12. Key words "life as WE know it". All living things adapt to to their environment by evolving over time. The will to live is instinctual in all forms of life.

  13. I heard that Mars' axis wobbles much more markedly than Earth's does, due to the lack of a moon large enough to stabilise it. Could this wobble cause that lake to warm up periodically?

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