Mars’ Deep Groundwater Uncovered: A Sign Red Planet Could Support Life?

There is an active deep groundwater on Mars! That’s according to evidence from a new study by researchers at the USC Arid Climate and Water Research Center (AWARE). 

The team suggested that water potentially flows from surface streams in near-equatorial areas on the Red Planet. The new study backs a 2018 report by the Italian Space Agency that detected the presence of a deepwater lake on Mars under its south polar ice caps, EurekAlert first reported.

But the USC researchers said that water likely exists in a broader geographical area than just the poles of the planet. In fact, they found an active system, as deep as 750 meters, which let water flow through cracks in the specific craters they analyzed.

"We propose an alternative hypothesis that they originate from a deep pressurized groundwater source which comes to the surface moving upward along ground cracks," according to one of the researchers. 

The team studied the characteristics of the Mars Recurrent Slope Linea or the dried, short streams of water found on certain crater walls on the planet. 

The study, to be published in the journal Nature Geoscience, suggested that the fractures within the craters allowed water springs to leak onto the surface, which created the linear features found on the walls of craters. 

"We have seen the same mechanisms in the North African Sahara and in the Arabian Peninsula, and it helped us explore the same mechanism on Mars," study author Abotalib Z. Abotalib said. 

Future explorations could focus on areas where potential groundwater was found to seek Mars' habitability, the researchers said. 

"Groundwater is strong evidence for the past similarity between Mars and Earth--it suggest they have a similar evolution, to some extent," a researcher said. "It helps us to understand the similarities to our own planet and if we are going through the same climate evolution and the same path that Mars is going.”

For the study, high-resolution optical images and modeling were used analyze the walls of large impact craters on Mars and to identify the link between presence of fractures and the sources of water streams.