Researchers found two hidden lakes that can provide key data in the search for extraterrestrial life on other planets. Two bodies of water in the liquid state were detected under the glaciers of the Canadian Arctic, buried under about 500 meters of ice.
The water has an estimated temperature of minus 10.5 degrees Celsius and scientists infer that it has a high concentration of salt, which is what prevented it from freezing. This finding was made by a team from the University of Alberta.
Stunning lakes under the ice
“I was surprised and a little perplexed,” said Anja Rutishauser, one of the authors of the study. “We were not looking for subglacial lakes,” she said.
Although the presence of water below the glaciers is a fairly common phenomenon, it was believed that the water in Devon Ice Cap was frozen from the base up. They are the first two such lakes observed in Canada and cover an estimated area of between 5 and 8 square kilometers, respectively.
These lakes are different from others in Greenland and Antarctica, which contain fresh water generated by the melting of ice produced by the geothermal energy of the rocks below. These reserves are isolated by thick masses of ice.
How can the lakes beneath Canadian glaciers help the search for extraterrestrial life on other planets?
Scientists believe that the same temperature and salinity are presented by the oceans beneath the glaciers on Europe, one of the moons of Jupiter. The potential of these environments to house life is an important issue since they would represent an isolated habitat for microbes.
“The probability of life in these systems is high, although temperatures suggest that biological activity would be severely limited,” explained Alison Murray of the Nevada Research Institute.
Claire Cousins, of the University of Saint Andrews, explained that, even though the chemical conditions are different from those of the icy moons like Europe, these lakes will help scientists to understand the habitability of the hypersaline environments beneath ice layers.
It is believed that there is a large network of lakes in the Candian Arctic region, in addition to the two that were observed so far. Also, the researchers suggest that these lakes were hidden about 120,000 years ago.
In conclusion, scientists will study the newly lakes found beneath Canadian Arctic glaciers hoping that will discover something that could help them search for extraterrestrial life on other planets, such as the Jupiter’s Europa.