Radar Probe Reveals Huge Reservoir of Liquid Water Under Mars’ Surface

Scientists Detect Liquid Lake on Mars

When Orosei and his colleagues analyzed the data, they saw what looked like a lake of water about 12 miles in diameter and a mile below a surface layer made up of water ice and dust.

What they believe to be a lake sits beneath the Red Planet's south polar ice cap, and is about 20km across.

Liquid water is essential for all forms of life that we know of. It was home to plenty of liquid water and lakes at least 3.6 billion years ago.

Lead author Roberto Orosei surveyed a region called Planum Australe, located in the southern ice cap of Mars, from May 2012 until December 2015.

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.

"It's a very exciting result: the first indication of a briny aquifer on Mars", says geophysicist David Stillman of Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, who was not a part of the study.The findings, if confirmed, would mark the detection of the largest body of liquid water on Mars today reports Marina Koren in The Atlantic.

"After years, literally a couple of years of.discussion, debate, and let's say general head scratching, we really felt confident that any other explanation would fail", Orosei says.

"Caution needs to be exercised, however, as the concentration of salts needed to keep the water liquid could be fatal for any microbial life similar to Earth's".

An underground salt-laden lake has been found on Mars, according to Italian researchers. "And if you have conditions for life in one area of the planet that is in hydraulic continuity with other areas where liquid water also exists, you could have a very substantial subsurface biosphere that has survived since the planet's early history". The only way we can put life on the planet in the future is to ensure without a doubt that there had been no life on it in the past.

"It's plausible that the water may be an extremely cold, concentrated brine, which would be pretty challenging for life", explained Dr Claire Cousins, an astrobiologist from the University of St Andrews, UK.

"Water is there. We have no more doubt", co-author Enrico Flamini, the Italian space agency's Mars Express mission manager, told a press conference.

Ground-penetrating radar uses the method of sending radar pulses towards the surface and timing how long it takes for them to be reflected back to the spacecraft, and with what strength. It will require flying a robot there, which is capable of drilling through 1.5 kilometers of ice.

"For more than three decades, planetary scientists have wondered whether that similarity extends to hidden lakes beneath the ice-caps, as we find under Earth's Antarctic ice-sheet".

But it's a clue to how the terrain of Mars developed and to the planet's long term climate. Certain areas had "a greater intensity (bright reflections) than the surrounding areas and the surface", intimating at the existence of liquid.

There is already speculation about the presence of these "extremophiles" in the salty subsurface oceans discovered inside some of the icy moons in our solar system. "Moreover, it provides a valuable confirmation that the water that once flowed abundantly over the Martian surface in the form of seas, lakes and rivers filled the voids in the subsurface".

Beneath this, researchers spotted something unusual 1.5km beneath the ice.

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