Jan 27, 2022 - News

University of Texas researchers puncture Martian water hopes

The Echus Chasma, one of the largest water source regions on Mars.

The Echus Chasma, one of the largest water source regions on Mars. The dark material shows a network of light-colored, incised valleys that look similar to drainage networks known on Earth. Scientists debate whether the valleys originate from precipitation, groundwater springs or liquid or magma flows on the surface. Photo: ESA via Getty Images.

That lake of liquid water on Mars you might have heard about a few years ago — it was probably all an optical illusion.

The very big picture: University of Texas researchers this week punctured claims that liquid water was detected under Mars' ice-covered south pole in 2018.

What they found: It's probably just a dusty mirage, per their report in Geophysical Research Letters.

  • Earlier teams of scientists thought they had found liquid H2O beneath the surface, but the UT researchers say a more likely explanation is volcanic rock buried beneath ice.

What they're saying: "For water to be sustained this close to the surface, you need both a very salty environment and a strong, locally generated heat source," Cyril Grima, a planetary scientist at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, said. "But that doesn't match what we know of this region."

Our thought bubble: Boo. :(

Yes, but: We checked in about what this means with Axios' space journalist Miriam Kramer.

  • "Mars is still one of the best places in the solar system to search for life. NASA's Perseverance rover is actually there right now to try to find possible signs of past life on the Red Planet, exploring what was once a flowing river delta billions of years ago."
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