Mars may have standing liquid water, study reports

A new study shows the first evidence of a liquid body on Mars.
By Joseph Scalise | Nov 22, 2018
New evidence discovered by a team of Italian astronomers shows that there could be a lake underneath Mars' south polar ice cap, according to a new study publishedin the journalScience.

This discovery -- which builds on past research that found signs of liquid water flowing on the Martian surface -- is the first time scientists have detected a possible persistent body of water on the planet.

To make the finding, researchers used a radar instrument on board the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter known as Marsis. While the lake is likely small and there is no way to know how thick the ice layer above it is, it still presents a brand new look into the Red Planet.

"This really qualifies this as a body of water," said lead author Roberto Orosei, a researcher from the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics, according toYahoo News."A lake, not some kind of meltwater filling some space between rock and ice, as happens in certain glaciers on Earth."

The team first detected the water when they noted special reflections from the bottom of the South Polar Layered Deposit that were stronger than those on the surface. That is a tell tale sign of water below the ice.

That is important because, while researchers have long known that nothing lives on Mars' surface, there could be microorganisms beneath it. Not only would water allow them to live, but it would also protect them from harmful radiation and high temperatures.

However, the new findings do not confirm anything just yet. All astronomers know is that water likely exists, not that there is life on the distant planet.

In fact, the water itself may not be able to host life. To stay in its liquid form in such hostile conditions the lake would need to be cold and have a lot of salt dissolved into it.

The team hopes to continue their research by looking at other places on Mars and comparing them to the potential lake.

"What needs to be done now is for the measurements to be repeated elsewhere to look for similar signals, and, if possible, for all other explanation to be examined and - hopefully - ruled out," explained Dr Matt Balme, a researcher at the Open University who was not involved in the study, according toBBC News.


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