Mysterious radar signals over the south pole of Mars are not the result of water, but of mud

This appears to be the case.

For years, scientists have debated what lies beneath Mars’ south polar cap after discovering the mysterious bright radar signals. These were the signs in the beginning to liquid water Attributed exciting theory. But also one not everyone accepted. Recently, a research group seriously questioned the theory. And now the scientists in it New study Totally sure: there is another explanation for the mysterious radar signals.

Water on Mars
Scientists found the isotopic water in an area known as Antarctic stratified deposits, named after the alternating layers of water ice, dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide) and dust that settled here over millions of years. Using radar signals, scientists can look under and map these ice layers in detail. The reflected radio waves have a weaker signal. But in some cases, the returning signals were brighter than those on the surface. This prompted scientists to suspect that liquid water could be found beneath the surface, which strongly reflects radio waves.

doubt
However, a recently published study undermined this somewhat. Scientists found Many mysterious radar signals over the south pole of Mars. In some places, these “pools of liquid water” were less than a mile below the surface. The temperatures there are likely to be around -64 degrees Celsius. Raised an urgent question. Because how can there be liquid water in an area where it is already very cold? “The scientific community has shown a lot of skepticism,” said study researcher Isaac Smith. “Many papers have shown that it takes more salt and heat – much more than Mars provides – to melt the ice under the polar cap. In addition, it turns out that mysterious radar signals are becoming more prevalent – including in places where the ice is barely melting. And this casts further doubt on the theory.”

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pride
what is it then? Now researchers have shown that smectites, a common type of clay, can explain it all. During the experiments, the researchers measured the radar signatures of smectites at room temperature and at icy temperatures. These experiments show that smectites may indeed be responsible for the mysteriously bright radar signals previously observed.

Smectite is a class of clays. It forms when basalt chemically breaks down the igneous rocks – which make up most of the surface of Mars – in the presence of liquid water.

“Smectite is abundant on Mars,” Smith said. It covers about half of the planet, especially in the southern hemisphere. This knowledge, combined with the mud’s low-temperature radar properties, suggest that smectites are the most likely explanation for the mystery.”

The one kilometer thick Antarctic mantle has a base made up, at least in part, of a common type of clay. The researchers showed that this mud is also found at the edges of the ice sheet. Photo: ESA/DRL/FU Berlin (top), NASA

The results are somewhat disappointing for those who were hoping for liquid water and underground pools anyway. At the same time, it’s exciting findings that could help us learn more about the still-mysterious past conditions on the Red Planet. “The discovery of potential clay minerals in and under the ice sheet at the planet’s south pole is important because it tells us that it contains ice deposits that touched water at some time in the past,” said researcher Briony Horgan. “While our work shows that liquid water and the associated habitable environment for life under Antarctica may not exist today, it tells us more about the waters that existed in this region in the past.”

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According to the researchers, it is clear that the mysterious radar signals over the south pole of Mars are not the result of water, but rather of mud. In fact, it seems to be the most appropriate explanation. And that ends the long-running puzzle… isn’t it?

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