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Water is buried beneath Martian landscape

28 July 2018

It took years of patient analysis, but today a team of Italian scientists announced that an Italian-U.S. radar instrument, MARSIS-which has been observing Mars since 2005-finally found what it was looking for: a lake of liquid water a mile below the Martian surface near the planet's south pole.

Robert Orosei, who led the new research which has shown that liquid water still exists on Mars in the form of a subglacial lake, noted that studielectric permittivity allowed scientists to locate this body of water. "We are not closer to actually detecting life, but what this finding does is give us the location of where to look on Mars".

After seeing what possibly could be dark streaks of salty water that flowed down the Martian dune during warm seasons, the planetary scientists were certainly delighted.

The researchers say the lake was likely able to stay liquid because of salts from Martian rocks dissolving into the water, coupled with the incredible pressure of the ice above. When they found evidence of the subterranean lake, they were careful not to jump to conclusions, the scientists told NPR.

ESA Science  Twitter
ESA Science Twitter

"Since United Launch Alliance put a price on delivering water in space in 2016, researchers, agencies and companies have focused on water, for support of life and chemical processes, and for conversion to hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel", he said.

Professor Andrew Dempster, director of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research, said the discovery reinforced work over the past few years that had identified water as the first resource to be "mined" in space. Still, this doesn't mean life couldn't exist within the lake. It's the same as when you put salt on a road, said Kirsten Siebach, a planetary geologist at Rice University who wasn't part of the study. "But there are terrestrial organisms that can survive and thrive, in fact, in similar environments".

"That doesn't mean that there will be life there - but it does suggest that a lake on Mars would be a flawless place to look". "There are microorganisms on Earth that are capable of surviving even in ice". Chevrier also said that, to help with confirmation, he'd like to see if NASA technology known as the Shallow Radar sounder can also find the same evidence. They revealed the presence of liquid water.

"This water would be extremely cold, right at the point where it's about to freeze". For now, researchers will continue to investigate this lake and search for water elsewhere on Mars. Conditions most favorable to life generally involve having liquid water available for long periods of time, he said.

Water is buried beneath Martian landscape