Liquid water lake discovered on Mars

The potential body of water is beneath the ice cap on the south pole

The potential body of water is beneath the ice cap on the south pole

The discovery is the result of a decade-long effort to find liquid water on Mars and one that may rewrite the odds of finding life on the Red Planet.

The scientists explained that radar signals bounce back to the Mars Express in various different ways, depending on what material they have found - and according to the Italian team, the new signals picked up over Mars' south pole could be explained only by a large underground mass of water.

The discovery was made using a radar instrument on board the Mars Express orbiter, which works by bouncing low-frequency electromagnetic waves off the surface of the planet then analysing the data that returns.

"We discovered water on Mars, " said Roberto Orosei, a scientist at Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics and the co-investigator on MARSIS, in a video about the discovery.

In the case of this subsurface lake of water on Mars, the researchers say that it is likely stays liquid partly due to magnesium, calcium and sodium salts, which are common in Mars rocks. The discovery means we could be one step closer to finding evidence of extraterrestrial life on the red planet.

Since everything is a competition, perhaps this exciting discovery will inspire Donald Trump to improve NASA's budget to make sure the United States wins the race to Mars. The radar reflected the feature's brightness, signaling that it's water.

Our planetary neighbor has a popular target for exploration, with rovers on its surface and other probes examining the planet from orbit.

The presence of liquid water on Mars has always been suspected but thus far evidence from MARSIS remained inconclusive.

"Even with those limitations, we've now found that there is likely to be liquid water in the Martian subsurface", Stamenkovic said.

The potential body of water
The potential body of water

The subsurface lake could be similar to Antarctica's Lake Vostok, or to the subsurface seas thought to exist on the Jovian moon Europa or the Saturnian moon Enceladus.

"This really qualifies this as a body of water".

That could lower the freezing point for the water, along with pressure from the ice above, the researchers said.

A NASA image of Mars.

Our quest on Mars has been to 'follow the water, ' in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we've long suspected.

This, however, is the best evidence to date of an environment on Mars that could be friendly to known forms of life - these "extremophile" bacteria - right now.

Between 2012 and 2015, the team obtained 29 radar samples and used them to map the subsurface almost one mile deep in the area and about a dozen miles wide. They can not see the bottom with existing equipment, but they estimate it is at least three feet deep, otherwise they would not have detected it at all.

"We interpret this feature as a stable body of liquid water on Mars", the authors wrote in the study. Learning more about these caps can reveal Mars' climate history.

Being able to access water sources could also help humans survive on a future crewed mission to Earth's neighboring planet. "If that were to be liquid water, it would be only feasible if there will be large concentrations of salts within it". "It will open up a very interesting area of science on Mars", he says.

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