Feeds

Frozen sea on Mars hints at alien life

Pack-ice in pictures

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Mars Express, the European Space Agency's Mars orbiter, has sent back images of a frozen sea just below the surface of Mars. Three dimensional images of pack ice were captured by the orbiter's high resolution camera, and provides the first evidence that there was still liquid water on Mars relatively recently, according to the teams who made the discovery.

Pack ice on Mars. image credit ESA

Jan-Peter Muller, professor of geomatic engineering at UCL, commented: "This is a historic moment for Mars exploration when a previously neglected region reveals its secrets. Speculation that this area might have water close to the surface have been shown to be correct."

The area, near the Martian equator, has also been shown to have higher-than-normal levels of methane in the atmosphere, hinting that primitive micro-organisms could survive on Mars, according to Dr. John Murray, from the department of Earth Science at the Open University. He says that the mission has changed many of his long-held opinions about Mars, and called for a mission to go and "check it out".

The sea would have formed at around the same time as early hominids were evolving from apes. The researchers think the water welled up from beneath the planet's surface about five million years ago. The water would have covered an area about 800 by 900km, and was 45m deep, on average. Pack ice formed on the surface and drifted in floes until the water levels dropped and it lodged on higher ground. A layer of volcanic ash and dust seems to have protected the ice from subliming away, the researcher said.

When the ESA's ground-penetrating radar experiment, MARSIS, begins in May, the researchers will find out once and for all if there is water at the site. If water is confirmed, the site will be a prime candidate for ESA's mission to look for life on the Red Planet, planned for the end of this decade. ®

Related stories

Reg chats with ISS veteran
PPARC sets up Mars committee
MIT boffins moot space leotard
NASA celebrates martian Spirit of adventure

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.