Scientists Believe They Have Found Liquid Water on Mars

29 July, 2018, 03:41 | Author: Jacqueline Daniels
  • The potential body of water is beneath the ice cap on the south pole

The lake under the Martian ice stretches 20 km across, said the team led by Roberto Orosei from the National Institute of Astrophysics in Bologna in a paper detailed in the prestigious journal Science.

The researchers said it could take years to verify whether something is actually living in this body of water that resembles a subglacial lake on Earth, perhaps with a future mission drilling through the ice to sample the water below.

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.

The potential body of water
The potential body of water

Located under a layer of Martian ice, the lake is about 20 kilometers wide, said the report led by Italian researchers in the United States journal Science.

An Italian team of scientists detected the lake while carrying out a radar survey using the Mars Express spacecraft. This keeps the lake at just below freezing temperatures, and it maintains a liquid state due to the enormous weight of the ice above pressing down on it.

After analysing the results, a particularly bright 20km-wide spot was found, which was interpreted to be a stable body of liquid water, laden with salty, saturated sediments.

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As Science Magazine report, the lake on Mars is believed to be very similar to pools of water that can also be found beneath the ice of Antarctica and Greenland. However, the presence of liquid water at the base of Martian polar caps was first hypothesized in a study 31 years ago.

Despite the obvious excitement surrounding the findings, Mars' surface is "inhospitable to life", according to the Open University's Dr. Manish Patel, and researchers are not any closer to finding life than they were prior to the announcement. The left-most white line is the surface radar echo, while the light bluespots highlight areas of very high reflectivity, thought to be caused by water.

In the past, Mars had already been home to bodies of water as evidenced by dry bed lakes and river valleys on its surface. This would lower the water's freezing temperature, and combined with the pressures exerted by the 1.5 kilometres of ice above it, it would be prevented from freezing solid.

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Scientists from the Italian space agency have discovered a large underground lake of what they believe to be pure water on Mars, which could significantly increase the probability of life on the planet.

However, Stillman, who was not involved in the research, said another spacecraft, or other instruments, need to be able to confirm the discovery.

For the first time, scientists have detected a lake of salty water under the Martian ice, a study released Wednesday said.

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Still, the more measurements scientists can collect, the more confident they can be.

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