It is already known that Mars features the largest volcanoes that have been discovered in our solar system. Until now it was thought that the volcanic activity of the planet came to a stop millions of years ago. Recent discoveries suggest that the situation could be quite different.
A new paper infers that volcanic activity may still take place near the southern pole of the Red Planet. The study used data gathered by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft, which suggests that the ice located in the target area is melting. A high quantity of salts will lower the melting point of the ice but the Martian climate is usually too cold to allow the phenomenon to occur.
It is thought that a magma chamber located in the close proximity of the ice (less than 6 miles or 10 kilometers) should be able to generate enough heat in order to influence the ice. If the theory is correct, magmatic activity should have been relatively recent in order to provide enough heat.
The main body of the study is linked to a previous paper that was published back in 2018. The paper argued that a subsurface liquid water lake can be found under the south polar ice cap. The study notes such a lake could not exist without a source of heat located below the surface. Even if the magmatic activity took place within the span of a few thousand years in the past the residual heat could be felt even today.
Some researchers already believe that the paper has the potential to spark heated debates in the scientific community, encouraging more people too look at the subject and come up with their own conclusions.
Since liquid water is considered a vital element for the existence of life it is also thought that if alien life does exist on Mars it is likely that it can be found in the subterranean lake. Further research is needed before definitive answers can be provided.