Salty ponds may be under Mars’ icy surface

  • A network of salty ponds may be gurgling beneath Mars’ South Pole alongside a large underground lake, raising the prospect of tiny, swimming Martian life.
  • Italian scientists reported their findings Monday, two years after identifying what they believed to be a large buried lake. 
  • They widened their coverage area by a couple hundred miles, using even more data from a radar sounder on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter.
  •  Estimated to be 12 miles to 18 miles (20km to 30km) across and buried 1 mile (1.5km) beneath the icy surface.
  • They’ve also identified three smaller bodies of water surrounding the lake. 
  • These ponds appear to be of various sizes and are separate from the main lake.
  • Roughly 4bn years ago, Mars was warm and wet, like Earth. But the red planet eventually morphed into the barren, dry world it remains today.
  • All this potential water raises the possibility of microbial life on – or inside – Mars. High concentrations of salt are likely keeping the water from freezing at this frigid location.
  • The surface temperature at the South Pole is an estimated minus 172F (minus 113C), and gets gradually warmer with depth.