Mysterious reflections on Mars may come from something even stranger than water

blue-grey photo of textured landscape
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Scientists reexamining a mysterious signal from Mars’ south pole have offered a new potential explanation, and it doesn’t bode well for hopes of finding liquid water on the Red Planet.

In 2018, scientists use data from the European Space Agency Mars Express The orbiter’s Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS) instrument said they observed a radar signal that could be interpreted as evidence of liquid water. This strangely bright reflected signal came from a region known as the Ultima Scopuli at the south pole of Mars. Researchers studying the reflection now suggest that the signal comes not from the ice itself or even liquid water, but from underlying geological layers of minerals and frozen carbon dioxide. In particular, it became clear that the thickness of these layers creates an otherworldly reflection rather than what they consist of.

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