3 of 8
Missed "S" at the beginning of the quote; minus signs; space between units and values
  • 32111
  • 13
  • 101
  • 187

Which “exotic salt” can lower water's freezing point by -70°C?

The Medium.com article Mars Phoenix Lander, 10 Years Later shows several remarkable images and discoveries on Mars by the Mars Phoenix Lander circa 2008.

One image (shown below) shows what looks like droplets of liquid water, condensed on the surface of one of the lander's legs.

The article says (emphasis mine):

Shortly after landing, the camera on Phoenix’s robotic arm captured views of blobs of material on one of the landing struts. Over time, these blobs moved, darkened, and coalesced, behaving like droplets of liquid water. The hypothesis here was that these blobs “splashed up” on the struts when the descent thrusters melted the ice exposed upon landing mentioned above.

But if liquid water isn’t stable on the martian surface, how did Phoenix observe liquid water on Mars? The key here lies in salt. If you live anywhere that gets snow, you’re probably familiar with salt as a de-icer for roads, sidewalks, etc. Salt lowers the freezing point of water, allowing it to remain liquid at temperatures lower than that of non-salty water. For example, pure water freezes at 0 °C/32 °F, but ocean saltwater freezes around −2 °C/28.4 °F. While the de-icing salts you get at the hardware store lower the freezing point by a few degrees, more exotic salts can lower the freezing point as much as −70 °C/−89 °F! Phoenix discovered some of these exotic salts in the soil around the lander—in particular, magnesium perchlorate.

Question: Which "exotic salt" can lower water's freezing point by −70 °C?

Is it in fact magnesium perchlorate (which was found on Mars) or is it a different salt?

enter image description here

Blobs of possible brine (really salty water) imaged on one of Phoenix’s landing struts shortly after arriving on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Max Planck Institute

  • 6251
  • 1
  • 21
  • 70