The frozen, cruel and empty continent of Antarctica is a weird place where there were once forests. Nowadays, you can even find places that are hot… under the ice. Moreover, there is a spot called Blood Falls, that contains strange life forms which have been sealed away for untold ages. Yes, Antarctica is a really strange continent. But wait! A mysterious salt pond in Antarctica is so salty that scientists believe that if water is found on Mars, it will likely look much like it does at the Don Juan Pond.
The water of the Don Juan Pond situated at the base of the Transantarctic Mountains in Antarctica is so salty – one of the saltiest bodies of water on Earth – that it can remain liquid at temperatures up to -50 C.
The origin of the mysterious brine remains however unexplained. While scientists have previously hypothesized that it is fed by moisture trickling down from the surrounding valley slopes, a new study suggests it may instead be fueled by a groundwater system deep beneath the surface. Yes remember there are hot places in Antarctica… Just around!
Such features have already been observed on Mars’ steep slopes, meaning that the red planet may also contain a groundwater system.
Martian soil is damp with liquid brine due to the presence of perchlorate solutions, that significantly lower the freezing point of water. Measurements from the Mars Curiosity rover taken at the Gale crater show during winter nights until just after sunrise, temperatures and humidity levels are just right for liquid brine to form. When mixed with it water, this brine can exist down to around -70°C (-94°F), and the salt also soaks up water vapour from the atmosphere.
The research team used both lab tests and computer modelling to refine and analyse the structure of their ‘Martian water’ brine substitute. Observations showed charged hydrogen ions become partially segregated in the salty solution. It is likely that this is what stops the water from freezing.
Even on Earth, we have alien places!