An active groundwater system may still be thriving on Mars hundreds of meters beneath the surface, according to new research.
Though recent studies have detected the presence of deep lakes near Mars’ south pole, features linked to water in areas closer to the equator have largely been attributed to flows at or near the surface.
But, a new investigation using data from Mars Express and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter now suggests groundwater is much more prevalent across the red planet than previously suspected.
Scientists now say active groundwater likely exists far beyond the Martian poles, in some cases as deep as 750 meters, and gives rise to surface streams that leave snaking streaks along many crater walls.
In the study, the team studied features observed on Mars’ Recurrent Slope Linea, which appear to have been created by short streams of water.
While it’s been suggested that these were the result of surface water flows, the researchers say ‘this may not be true.’
‘We propose an alternative hypothesis that they originate from a deep pressurized groundwater source which comes to the surface moving upward along ground cracks,’ said Essam Heggy, a member of the Mars Express Sounding radar experiment MARSIS.
The team studied high resolution images to analyze ground fractures along the walls of large impact craters.
And, they say these characteristics appear similar to features seen on Earth.
‘The experience we gained from our research in desert hydrology was the cornerstone in reaching this conclusion,’ said lead author Abotalib Z. Abotalib.