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Confirming the existence of liquid water on Mars is significant, in that it could provide a possible habitat for life. Pixabay

A team of scientists studying data from a satellite orbiting Mars says they have discovered evidence of several lakes of what they believe is salty, liquid water beneath the surface of the planet’s south pole. The discovery, detailed in a study published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy, expands upon a tentative finding in 2018, which was made using data from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express satellite.

A radar instrument is known as the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) produced evidence of what astronomers believed was a large saltwater lake under the ice at Mars’s south pole, a finding that was met with excitement and some skepticism at the time.


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Since then, the same group of scientists examined 10 years’ worth of radar images sent from the spacecraft and found not only more evidence confirming the original salt lake but enough for at least three more lyings underneath the Martian surface. Confirming the existence of liquid water on Mars is significant, in that it could provide a possible habitat for life.

ALSO READ: NASA On A Mission To Explore Mars

The new evidence came after researchers examined over 100 radar images taken by the satellite from 2010 through 2019. The scientists saw what seemed to be several subglacial liquid bodies ranging in size from just over 19 kilometers across to as small as just under 5 kilometers. The average temperature on Mars is around minus 26 degrees Celsius, far too cold for water to remain liquid at the surface. But the researchers believe the lakes maintain their liquid state due to their high concentrations of salt.

Some scientists believe Mars was once a wet, warm world and may even have hosted life forms at some point in its early history. But over time, the planet’s atmosphere was stripped away because it lacks a magnetic field like Earth’s, making it seemingly inhospitable. This latest discovery suggests that some pockets of the Martian terrain may be habitable and could contain some form of microbial life that escaped from the planet’s freezing surface to the waters beneath. (VOA/JC)

(Water lakes mars, Mars water, Planet mars water, Lakes in mars)


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NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has for the first time spotted signs of a planet transiting a star outside of the Milky Way galaxy, opening up a new avenue to search for exoplanets at greater distances than ever before.

The possible exoplanet -- or planets outside of our Solar System -- candidate is located in the spiral galaxy Messier 51 (M51), also called the Whirlpool Galaxy because of its distinctive profile, NASA said in a statement.

Astronomers have, so far, found all other known exoplanets and exoplanet candidates in the Milky Way galaxy, almost all of them less than about 3,000 light-years from Earth.

An exoplanet in M51 would be about 28 million light-years away, meaning it would be thousands of times farther away than those in the Milky Way, NASA said.

"We are trying to open up a whole new arena for finding other worlds by searching for planet candidates at X-ray wavelengths, a strategy that makes it possible to discover them in other galaxies," said Rosanne Di Stefano of the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard and Smithsonian (CfA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led the study.

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The exoplanet candidate was spotted in a binary system called M51-ULS-1, located in M51. This binary system contains a black hole or neutron star orbiting a companion star with a mass about 20 times that of the Sun. The X-ray transit they found using Chandra data lasted about three hours, during which the X-ray emission decreased to zero.

Based on this and other information, the team estimates the exoplanet candidate in M51-ULS-1 would be roughly the size of Saturn and orbit the neutron star or black hole at about twice the distance of Saturn from the Sun.

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However, more data would be needed to verify the interpretation as an extragalactic exoplanet. One challenge is that the planet candidate's large orbit means it would not cross in front of its binary partner again for about 70 years, thwarting any attempts for a confirming observation for decades, NASA said.

Named in honor of the late Indian-American Nobel laureate, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, the Chandra X-ray Observatory is the world's most powerful X-ray telescope. It has eight times greater resolution and is able to detect sources more than 20-times fainter than any previous X-ray telescope.

Known to the world as Chandra (which means "moon" or "luminous" in Sanskrit), Chandrasekhar was widely regarded as one of the foremost astrophysicists of the twentieth century. (IANS/JB)


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