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Moon and Mars

January 20, 2021

A lot of water is frozen in the Martian ice caps. And there may be a lot of liquid water below them. Such locations might be good places to look for signs of microscopic life.

Scientists discovered the first evidence of water below the south polar ice cap a couple of years ago. They used radar aboard a Mars-orbiting spacecraft to peer through the ice. It showed a possible pool of water almost 20 miles wide. It could be as little as a few inches deep, but it could be much deeper.

A more recent study, using several more years of observations, strengthened the evidence for that pool. And it found three more possible pools nearby — each of them a few miles wide.

The Martian atmosphere is too thin to allow liquid water to exist at the surface — it would quickly boil away. Below the ice caps, though, it’s a different story. The combination of high pressure and high levels of salinity may allow water to exist in liquid form for a long time — perhaps millions of years.

And as long as the levels of minerals in the water aren’t too high, it’s possible that the pools could support microscopic life — making them prime targets for future studies.

And Mars is in great view tonight. The planet is high in the south as night falls, above the Moon. It looks like a bright orange star. It’s a little closer to the upper right of the Moon as they set in the wee hours of the morning.

Tomorrow: rare metals in distant skies.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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