Mars has the most famous volcanoes in the solar system, which show that it was very geologically active. But so far, available evidence suggests that the period of the volcanic activity of the planet ended millions of years ago – that these massive calderas have been in a state of rest for a long time
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But now it seems that there can not be at all, in the end – there may still be some residual activity deep underground, according to a newly reviewed article in Geophysical Research Letters . From the results of the article:
Recent radar observations from the space shuttle Mars Express of the European Space Agency were interpreted as evidence of ice melting at the southern pole of Mars. Modeling temperatures in sub-surfaces to determine the necessary conditions for achieving liquid water at the base of the ice cover. Salt reduces the melting point of ice, while calcium perchlorate generates the lowest temperatures at which melting can be achieved. However, even if there are local concentrations of large amounts of these salts on the basis of southern polar ice, the typical conditions on Mars are too cold to melt the ice. We find that a local heat source in the earth's crust is needed to increase the temperature, and a magma chamber within 10 km (6 miles) of ice can provide such a source of heat. This result suggests that if the interpretation of the liquid water of observation is correct, magmatism on Mars may have been active very recently
The results of the study are related to the results of the previous document last year, which presented data on the large underground liquid water lake, which currently exists under the southern polar lid. A new study shows that the existence of such a lake should be a source of heat deep below the surface – mostly recent magmatic activity over the past few hundred thousand years. It's just recently, geologically speaking, and such heat can still be today. Michael Sori, LPL at the University of Arizona, and co-chair of the new document, recognizes that the new article will be the cause of the debate:
In a different way, with this, we are very interested in how the community responds to it.
A big question, of course, is that it can mean to search for life. If there is liquid water and a source of heat, this will greatly increase the chances of a certain lifestyle – although, perhaps, still just microbial – that exists under the surface. According to Ali Brahmson, Ph.D. in doctoral studies at the LPL and co-chair of the new document:
We believe that if there is some kind of life, it should probably be protected in the underground from radiation. If there are still magmatic processes, they may have been more widespread in the recent past and could provide wider basal melting. This may provide a more favorable environment for liquid water and, thus, may be life.
A rare water lake under the southern polar ice would not be too strange, because they also exist under the polar caps on Earth. But scientists are not sure how they will remain on Mars, as the planet is usually much colder than Earth. As Sory noted:
We thought that there is plenty of space to understand whether the real environment is what you need to melt the ice, first of all, what temperatures do you need, what kind of geological process do you need? Because, under normal conditions, it should be too cold.
So, if the water really exists, as it was announced last year, it keeps it liquid? The research team for the new work did experiments in modeling Mars, in particular, studied whether there is enough salt alone. They came to the conclusion that the salts themselves are unlikely to be able to raise the temperature on the basis of the ice cover and that there will be additional heat
So, where did this heat come from? The most likely source will be volcanic activity underground – a magmatic chamber under an ice cover. The team calculated that the magma rose to a depth of less than 300,000 years ago, but did not reach the surface, but remained in the cell. The heat from the chamber drowned the bottom of the ice cap, forming a lake. But the most important thing is that today it will be necessary to provide heat today not only hundreds of thousands of years ago. As Brahmson noticed:
This would mean that in the interior of Mars there is still an active formation of chamber magma, and this is not just a cold but a dead place inside.