Deep Space
Solar System

Mars' south pole might have hidden underground lake

A new study suggests the presence of a hidden lake under Mars.
By Tyler MacDonald | Oct 06, 2019
Scientists just announced the discovery of what they believe to be a hidden underground lake on Mars. It spans approximately 12 miles across and is located below a mile (1.6 kilometers) of ice at the planet's southern pole.

"It's always exciting when you talk about liquid water on present-day Mars," said Ashwin Vasavada, project scientist at NASA for the Curiosity mission, although he declined to say how confident he is in the claim due to his lack of radar imagery knowledge.

"It's exciting because of any implications it might have for the habitability of Mars," he said.

"We discovered water on Mars," said the study's lead author Roberto Orosei. "MARSIS was able to detect echoes from beneath the southern polar cap of Mars that were stronger than surface echoes. This condition on Earth happens only when you observe subglacial water like in Antarctica over places like Lake Vostok."

Future research should confirm the presence of the water layer. And if it does, scientists will have to start asking other questions before they can tie the finding to the potential of life on Mars.

"If you do have liquid water and you consider its relevance to life, then you also have to go beyond just the fact that it's liquid and ask the temperature that it's at and whether it's able to be used by life," Vasavada said. "Not all liquid water is equal in terms of life's ability to use it."

Specifically, he suggests that a high salt content would be necessary to keep liquid water at low temperatures, which could be problematic for salt-loving forms of life.

The findings were published in Science.


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