Large Underground Lake Detected Below Mars Ice Cap, Study Says

Radar has found liquid water on Mars, but don't expect anyone to drink it

While previous research unearthed possible signs of "intermittent liquid water flowing" on Mars" surface, a new discovery has now braced the possibility of "extra-terrestrial life'.

Today, a team of Italian scientists announced evidence that Mars has lakes of liquid water under its polar ice caps.

According to Orosei, who led the team that made this discovery, they detected the lake using a ground-penetrating radar instrument on the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter, known as the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding, or MARSIS.

The presence of liquid water at the bottom of the Martian polar ice caps was first theorized more than 30 years ago, the researchers said, but it had been "inconclusively debated ever since".

In recent years, planetary scientists and astrobiologists have been scouring the Red Planet for water, one of the requirements for life as we know it.

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.

Notably, researchers used the Marsis instrument to examine the surface and subsurface of the planet. Mars is famously rich in magnesium, calcium, and sodium which could have all dissolved into the water, forming a brine and dropping the freezing point of water much lower. But they find the permittivity of the patch to be higher than anywhere else on Mars-and comparable to the subglacial lakes on Earth.

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.

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. But there hasn't been evidence of stable bodies of water until now, the researchers said.

Radar has found liquid water on Mars, but don't expect anyone to drink it

The researchers noted that together, with the pressure of the, this lowers the melting point, allowing the lake to remain liquid, as happens on Earth. But scientists thought that Mars had lost the majority of its liquid water.

There is another satellite orbiting Mars right now, but it hasn't detected what MARSIS did.

"The fact that it's buried underneath the surface isn't a big surprise, because liquid water can not exist on the surface of Mars, it's simply not possible because of the atmospheric pressure is too thin", Enright said.

"This lake on Mars, even if salty, is now the best site for finding extant life on Mars", said Chris McKay, a senior scientist at NASA. New radar collections starting in 2012 showed a much stronger signal, Pettinelli said.

"This is just one small study area", says study author Roberto Orosei, who's also principal investigator of the MARSIS experiment.

"Those are not ideal conditions for life to form", Siebach said. But some experts are cautioning that this discovery alone does not ensure the eventual discovery of life on Mars.

However, pure liquid water has never been found until now.

If other reservoirs are detected and a network of glacial lakes is uncovered - like on Earth - then it could indicate that water has persisted on Mars for millions of years, said Orosei.




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