We Might Have Extraplanetary Neighbors to Both Sides

We Might Have Extraplanetary Neighbors to Both Sides

Kian Pfannenstiel, Editor

Recent studies of Mars have observed four lakes underneath it’s southern ice cap. The initial discovery, made in 2018, was based on only a few readings from the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) and suggested only one main lake under the ice cap. Since then, however, many more readings have suggested the existence of three other lakes around the main one and have all but confirmed the existence of the main lake.

The fact that these lakes are reported to exist doesn’t make that widely accepted, though. Some scientists are skeptical about whether they really exist at all and others believe that if they do exist, they’re probably more like a nasty Slurpee than a proper lake. Purdue University planetary geophysicist Mike Sori said “If the bright material really is liquid water, I think it’s more likely to represent some sort of slush or sludge,” to Scientific American.

The thing to note about Mars is that it isn’t hot enough for liquid water. Nowhere is there a strong enough source of heat for ice to melt, though rock structures on the planet suggest it may have in the past had running water on its surface. So for there to be liquid water (or slush), there has to be another reason for it to be liquid. Seeing as they’re just lakes and have nowhere to go for a flow to keep them liquid, the remaining option is salt. Life can be sustained in water with salt levels up to five times that of seawater, but as the number goes up and up, life is harder and harder to find. With the amount of salt that would be necessary to keep the water liquid would also mean that if there’s life in these lakes, it would be very simple and inactive microorganisms. I like to think of them like tardigrades (look them up), though I’m probably very wrong on that.

Which of course brings me to my next point, my magnum opus for this article. Unless you’re willing to stretch what barely qualifies as an inch to cover a couple miles, this means very little for science-fiction. We might get a neat space-age disease story from this, but anyone who wants an iota of reality in their sci-fi will see no new aliens, no giant leaps in technology, and only a steady stream of encouraging stories about expanding into the great wide open of space.

For further reading, check out these neat hyperlinks:

A Summary and Analysis from CBS News

A Summary And Analysis from Scientific American

The Article the Findings Were Initially Published In