It’s a controversy that has been ongoing for a long time, the scientific community has always been of a split opinion on the existence of liquid water at the south polar cap on Mars. According to the recent research, something that was considered for a long time by the experts as water turns out to be nothing but mud. The previous theory came into existence after interpreting the mysterious bright radar signal from ESA’s (the European Space Agency) Mars Express MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding). Recently published study led by Aditya Kumar Khuller, NASA scientist at JPL with his colleague Jeffrey Plaut, has discredited the presence of water hypothesis adducing low temperature.

Addressing the SYFY WIRE Aditya Kumar Khuller stated.We do not believe that the bright subsurface reflectors represent liquid water, because it would require anomalously high amounts of heat to allow liquid water to be stable at these locations.”

“In addition, there are some places where the bright reflectors extend close to the surface, where it is too cold for even brines (saturated sodium salt solution) to be stable in liquid form,” added Khuller.

In order to support their new theory, the researchers need similar condition that is the extreme cold temperature that exists on the south pole of Mars, this was done by Issac Smith of York University in Canada, who used a smectite (a clay mineral) sample from earth to demonstrate the hypothesis.

Smith immersed the smectite sample in liquid nitrogen (which has a temperature of -196 degree Celsius, a cryogenic liquid used for rapid cooling/freezing) to freeze them to -58 degrees Fahrenheit or -50 degree Celsius, thus roughly recreating the freezing environment on the south polar caps of Mars. He then evaluated the interactions with radar signals and it approximately matched the actual signals from the MARSIS observations.

Mars is rich in smectite according to Smith. Covering roughly about half the red planet, largely around the southern hemisphere. This key note, tallied with the data from the mud’s low-temperature; radar properties, led to believe that smectites are the most probable explanation behind the mysterious bright radar signals.

Even though the new observations invalidate the presence of liquid water on the southern hemisphere, scientists are positive that they have just started to scratch the surface and a lot of research is yet to come.