News Update :Liquid water ‘lake’ revealed on Mars

Researchers have found evidence of an existing body of liquid water on Mars.

What they believe to be a lake sits under the planet’s south polar ice cap, and is about 20km (12 miles) across.

Previous research found possible signs ofintermittent liquid water flowing on the martian surface, but this is the first sign of a persistent body of water on the planet in the present day.

Lake beds like those explored by Nasa’s Curiosity rover show water was present on the surface of Mars in the past.

However, the planet’s climate has since cooled due to its thin atmosphere, leaving most of its water locked up in ice.

The result is exciting because scientists have long searched for signs of present-day liquid water on Mars, but these have come up empty or yielded ambiguous findings. It will also interest those studying the possibilities for life beyond Earth – though it does not yet raise the stakes in the search for biology.

The discovery was made using Marsis, a radar instrument on board the European Space Agency’s (Esa) Mars Express orbiter.

Image copyrightNASA/JPL/MALIN SPACE SCIENCE SYSTEMSA white layer of ice in a swirl shape, on the dusty landscape of Mars
Image captionThe proposed lake sits beneath ice near the south pole of Mars

“It’s probably not a very large lake,” said Prof Roberto Orosei from the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics, who led the study.

Marsis wasn’t able to determine how thick the layer of water might be, but the research team estimate that it is a minimum of one metre.

“This really qualifies this as a body of water. A lake, not some kind of meltwater filling some space between rock and ice, as happens in certain glaciers on Earth,” Prof Orosei added.

Image copyrightESA/INAFIllustration of Mars Express probing the surface of Mars. Superimposed above are the radar findings, showing the thin layers of the South Polar Layered Deposit, with one small area in bright blue
Image captionArtists’ impression: Mars Express probing the planet’s surface. Marsis radar results above.

How was it found?

Radar instruments like Marsis examine the surface and immediate subsurface of the planet by sending out a signal and examining what is bounced back.

The continuous white line at the top of the radar results above marks the beginning of the South Polar Layered Deposit; a filo pastry-like accumulation of water ice and dust.

Beneath this, researchers spotted something unusual 1.5km under the ice.

“In light blue you can see where the reflections from the bottom are stronger than surface reflection. This is something that is to us the tell tale sign of the presence of water,” says Prof Orosei.

Image copyrightUSGS ASTROGEOLOGY SCIENCE CENTER, ARIZONA STATE UNThe white ice cap of the South Polar Layered Deposit with radar data superimposed. Each band changes colour according to the intensity of the signal - a clear area of blue is visible.
Image captionArtists’ impression: Marsis data shows an area of high reflectivity (dark blue) which is thought to be water

What does this mean for life?

Nothing definitive. Yet.

Dr Manish Patel from the Open University explained: “We have long since known that the surface of Mars is inhospitable to life as we know it, so the search for life on Mars is now in the subsurface.

“This is where we get sufficient protection from harmful radiation, and the pressure and temperature rise to more favourable levels. Most importantly, this allows liquid water, essential for life.”

This principle of following the water is key to astrobiology – the study of potential life beyond Earth.

So while the findings suggest water is present, they don’t confirm anything further.

“We are not closer to actually detecting life,” Dr Patel told BBC News, “but what this finding does is give us the location of where to look on Mars. It is like a treasure map – except in this case, there will be lots of ‘X’s marking the spots.”

Image copyrightSCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARYA green lake with salt residues around the edges
Image captionAstrobiologists study extreme environments like salt lakes on Earth to understand how life might survive on Mars

The water’s temperature and chemistry could also pose a problem for any potential martian organisms.

In order to remain liquid in such cold conditions (the research team estimate between -10 and -30 Celsius where it meets the ice above), the water likely has a great many salts dissolved in it.

“It’s plausible that the water may be an extremely cold, concentrated brine, which would be pretty challenging for life,” explained Dr Claire Cousins, an astrobiologist from the University of St Andrews, UK.

What next?

While its existence provides a tantalising prospect for those interested in the possibility of past or present life on Mars, the lake’s characteristics must first be verified by further research.

“What needs to be done now,” explained Dr Matt Balme from the Open University, “is for the measurements to be repeated elsewhere to look for similar signals, and, if possible, for all other explanation to be examined and – hopefully – ruled out.

“Maybe this could even be the trigger for an ambitious new Mars mission to drill into this buried water-pocket – like has been done for sub-glacial lakes in Antarctica on Earth,” he added.

Image copyrightSCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARYSatellite image of a flat region of ice, surrounded by more textured terrain
Image captionThe area has been compared to Lake Vostok, which lies 4km beneath the Antarctic ice

Scientists have previously claimed to find bacterial life in the buried depths of Antarctica’s Lake Vostok, but drilling on Mars would make for an ambitious project indeed.

“Getting there and acquiring the final evidence that this is indeed a lake will not be an easy task,” said Prof Orosei.

“It will require flying a robot there which is capable of drilling through 1.5km of ice. This will certainly require some technological developments that at the moment are not available.”

Culled from BBC

BREAKING NEWS:Black Thursday In Zamfara As Gunmen Attack Mosque, Kill Four, Injure Eight

Some gunmen have attacked a mosque at Kawddi Village in Zamfara State, leaving four persons dead and eight others injured.

According to Channels Television, the incident happened at about 8 pm in Zurmi Local Government Area of the State.

The spokesman for Zamfara State Police Command, Mr Muhammad Shehu, confirmed the incident on Thursday morning.

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He said, ‘’The gunmen invaded the village in large numbers and started shooting sporadically and in the process, killed four people while eight others were critically wounded.’’

Shehu disclosed that security operatives have been deployed in the village to forestall further attacks and restore calm to the area.

BREAKING NEWS : Tambuwal, Sokoto Assembly DUMP APC And Joins PDP

Sokoto State governor and Former Speaker of Federal  House of Representatives , Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, and all members of the State House of Assembly members on Wednesday evening dumped the All Progressives Congress, APC, and joined the People’s Democratic Party, PDP.

Stay tuned for more details………….


Breaking NEWS : Dino Melaye Kidnapped by Unknown Gun men

Dino Melaye, the senator representing Kogi West at the National Assembly, has been abducted by unknown gunmen.

Melaye’s abduction was confirmed by Ben Bruce, the senator representing Bayelsa East, on his Twitter page @benmurraybruce on Thursday morning.

“I have just been informed by Moses Melaye, @dino_melaye’s brother, that Dino has been abducted by unknown persons in a Toyota Sienna that blocked their car and overpowered them on their way to Kogi to answer to Dino’s court case. Lets be on the watch out. Will keep you updated,” Bruce tweeted.

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Barely 24hrs After Defecting To PDP, Police Arraign Melaye For Attempted Suicide

Dino Melaye, the senator representing Kogi West at the National Assembly, has been arraigned before an Abuja High Court in Apo for attempted suicide, attempt to escape from lawful custody and damage of police property.

The lawmaker was arraigned on Wednesday, barely 24 hours after he defected from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Dino pleaded not guilty to the six-count charge preferred against him, and was subsequently granted bail in sum of N5 million and two sureties in like sum.

Justice Silvanus Orji, the presiding judge, also ordered that the sureties must be directors in the Civil Service and be residents of the Abuja.

The prosecuting counsel, Alex Izinyon, had told the court that the defendant committed the alleged offences on April 24.

He said the defendant, while being conveyed in a police vehicle to Lokoja, forced his way out and escaped.

Mr Izinyon further said that the defendant sat on the ground, holding a substance in one hand threatening to drink it to kill himself so that he can put the police officers in trouble.

The prosecutor also said that the defendant broke the glass of the vehicle with his elbow and caused damage to police property.

He said the offences contravened the provisions of Sections 148,153,173,231, 326 and 327 of the Penal Code.

The counsel to Mr Melaye, Mike Ozekhome, prayed the court to allow the bail granted to the defendant at the Magistrates’ Court Wuse on the same charges to continue.

The prosecution opposed the application, adding that bail is at the discretion of the court.

The judge upheld the submission of the prosecution and gave the new bail conditions.

He said that the case would be assigned to another judge by the chief judge after the vacation.

Dino Melaye has been in a running battle with the Nigeria Police Force. He was earlier arraigned at a Lokoja court for attempt to mislead an officer of the law among other criminal offences.