Discovery of underground lake on Mars sparks talk of finding life

Researchers have for the first time found a stable body of liquid water on Mars--and where there is liquid water, there could be life.
By Rick Docksai | Dec 11, 2018
Researchers said Wednesday that they have found a 12-miles-wide underground lake on Mars. It would be the first stable body of water scientists have ever found on Mars, the researchers noted, who added that the discovery raises the prospects of finding Martian life.

"This is the place on Mars where you have something that most resembles a habitat, a place where life could subsist," said Roberto Orosei, planetary scientist at the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica in Italy and lead author of the study, which was published in the journal Science.

Orosei and colleagues spotted the lake using radar readings transmitted by the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft. The lake is underneath about 1.5 miles of ice in Mars' southern polar plain, the researchers said. Its temperature is below freezingthey estimate it to be between 14 degrees Fahrenheit and minus 94 degrees Fahrenheitbut it stay liquid because it contains heavy amounts of salt.

The researchers want to find out if other subsurface lakes exist on the planet. If they do, it would suggest that liquid water has persisted on Mars for millions of years, dating back to when Mars was a more hospitable planet, according to Orosei.

Scientists universally consider water to be fundamental to life. The researchers thus speculate that microbial life might have emerged in Mars' lakeor lakesand could be living there to this day. Orosei noted that there are microbes on Earth that can survive in similarly extreme-cold environments, and some that can survive in solid ice.

He and his colleagues don't expect to find the Martian life themselves, however. Orosei suggested that a future Mars mission might find it by drilling through the ice and sampling the water.


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