Huge lake of salty water found buried deep in Mars

Huge lake of salty water found buried deep in Mars

Huge lake of salty water found buried deep in Mars

What appears to be a large underground lake has been detected deep below the ice cap at Mars' southern pole, a new study reports.

MARSIS surveyed Mars' Planum Australe region between May 2012 and December 2015 and utilized radar pulses, sending them through the surface and the polar ice caps, ultimately measuring how the radio waves came back.

Professor Roberto Orosei, from the University of Bologna, wrote in the journal Science: "Anomalously bright subsurface reflections are evident within a well-defined 20-kilometre-wide zone. which is surrounded by much less reflective areas".

Readings indicate the lake was about twelve and a half miles across and almost a mile below the planet's surface.

Italian researchers have detected the existence of liquid water on Mars, raising hopes that life will be eventually found on the Red Planet.

The Mars Express hasn't been alone in its quest. But there's little heat flowing from the geologically dead interior of Mars, and under the planet's weak gravity, the weight of 1.5 kilometers of ice does not lower the melting point by much.

This find was made using the Mars Express spacecraft and its on board Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) instrument.

Evidence for Mars' watery past is prevalent across its surface in the form of vast dried-out river valley networks and enormous outflow channels clearly imaged by orbiting spacecraft.

The Italian Space Agency (ISA) says it's found the first proof of water on Mars.

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"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". Then, concerned that their hope the bright spots might be water could blind them to other explanations, Orosei and colleagues spent nearly as long trying to demolish their own data.

In Antarctica, scientists handle a core filled with sediments from the bottom of subglacial Lake Whillans. The reflection from a boundary involving liquid water is particularly strong.

"I predict future spacecraft mission to Mars and engineers are going to be working very hard to design methods to sample this remote water source from this newly discovered subterranean Martian lake".

"Water is considered one of the fundamental requirements for life".

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.

"All the technology to drill through this ice to the lake doesn't exist yet so it will probably take at least another 25 years before we will be examining this". Similarly, if the Martian lake holds life forms, they're likely to be holdovers from an ancient time when Mars was more habitable.

Early results from Mars Express already found that water-ice exists at the planet's poles and is also buried in layers interspersed with dust. For water to remain liquid at those temperatures, it would have to be incredibly briny. Although the team can not measure the thickness of the water layer, Orosei says it is much more than a thin film.

"It will require flying a robot there, which is capable of drilling through 1.5 kilometres of ice", he explained.

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