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Mars Breakthrough: Water Discovered Beneath Surface

Science
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Scientists have found evidence that liquid water exists on Mars, raising questions about the possibility of life on our neighboring planet.


The discovery, announced Wednesday, was made using the MARSIS radar instrument onboard the European Space Agency's (ESA) Mars Express spacecraft.

The researchers found a 12-mile-wide body of water buried under layers of ice and dust on the planet's southern pole region, the space agency said.

The scientists spent at least two years examining their data to make sure it was liquid water, not ice or another substance, according to the Associated Press.

"I really have no other explanation," Roberto Orosei, principal investigator of the MARSIS experiment, told the AP.

Orosei, who is also the lead author of the findings published in the journal Science today, suggested that there may be more hidden pools of water on Mars.

"This is just one small study area; it is an exciting prospect to think there could be more of these underground pockets of water elsewhere, yet to be discovered," he said in a press release.

Previous findings have showed evidence of Mars' watery past, due to a vast presence of dried out river channels. NASA confirmed in 2015 that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars. But today's announcement reveals there is an existing body of liquid.

The finding has fueled speculation that there could be, or was, life on the red planet, as water is essential for life. But as Manish Patel from the Open University told BBC News, "We are not closer to actually detecting life."

The underground Martian water is likely extremely cold, salty and sediment-rich, making it challenging for life to survive.

However, Patel continued, "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."

The researchers are eager to further explore the planet.

"The long duration of Mars Express, and the exhausting effort made by the radar team to overcome many analytical challenges, enabled this much-awaited result, demonstrating that the mission and its payload still have a great science potential," said Dmitri Titov, ESA's Mars Express project scientist, in the press release.

"This thrilling discovery is a highlight for planetary science and will contribute to our understanding of the evolution of Mars, the history of water on our neighbor planet and its habitability."

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Protesters gathered outside US Bank and Wells Fargo locations around the U.S. to protest investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline on Dec. 1, 2016. This photo is from a protest outside US Bank in south Minneapolis, Minnesota. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Jake Johnson

As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.


Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.

AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.

"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."


The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.

"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.

As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."

"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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