Huge lake of salty water found buried deep in Mars


This is not the first time that scientists have discovered signs of water on Mars but this is the first time that a persistent water supply has been found, which is noteworthy. Putting an end to decades of doubt and debates, scientists have finally found evidence that there is not just frozen water on the surface of Mars, there actually is a massive reservoir-like catchment of liquid water just under the surface of the red planet.

The findings, which are published in the journal Science, were made possibly by Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS), an instrument that resides on the Mars Express spacecraft.

Orosei and co. used MARSIS to measure a section of Mars' canyon-filled southern ice cap called Planum Australe, which had been returning abnormal radar readings for a section of land in that area, between May 2012 and December 2015. Deep beneath the surface, however, the weight of overlying soil and glaciers - as well as the potential presence of dissolved salts - could allow water to stay liquid even at what would otherwise be below-freezing temperatures. The water was detected by radar and is situated below the southern polar ice cap of the red planet.

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. The rightmost white line is the surface radar echo, while the light blue spots along the basal radar echo highlight areas of very high reflectivity, interpreted as being caused by the presence of water. The search for liquid on the planet on the part of MARSIS has been ongoing for the last 12 years.

In the coming years, several new Mars missions are planned, including new rovers by both American space agency NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

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Pettinelli cautioned that researchers hesitate to call the signal an underground "lake", but at the same time they are confident there is water in the sediments because they considered and discarded other hypotheses.

Early results from Mars Express already found that water-ice exists at the planet's poles and is also buried in layers interspersed with dust. However, there are [analogous organisms] on Earth, in the subglacial lakes of Antarctica.

"This really qualifies this as a body of water".

Stofan says the water in the Martian underground lake is probably salty, otherwise if would freeze solid, even deep in the ground.

Almost 4.5 billion years ago, Mars had six and a half times as much water as it does now and a thicker atmosphere.

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

Between 2012 and 2015, the team obtained 29 radar samples and used them to map the subsurface almost one mile deep in the area and about a dozen miles wide.

"Nobody dares to propose that there could be any more complex life form", Orosei said. It's also a place where extraterrestrial life could be flourishing.

However, pure liquid water has never been found until now. "It will open up a very interesting area of science on Mars", he says.

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