'Game Changer': Scientists Say Liquid Water Found on Mars

Jan Cross
July 27, 2018

Further evaluation of the bright feature indicated an interface between the ice and a stable body of liquid water. For the first time, though, new research suggests the Red Planet might now possess a large stable body of liquid water, one that stretches roughly a dozen miles across and is buried under almost a mile of ice.

To find the water, Italian researchers analysed radar signals collected over three years by the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft.

During the intrepid explorer's shutdown, scientists announced the discovery of something incredible: a massive water lake hidden under the Martian ice.

"This subsurface anomaly on Mars has radar properties matching water or water-rich sediments", says Roberto Orosei, principal investigator of the MARSIS experiment and lead author of the paper published in the journal Science today. Its radio pulses traveled through the Martian surface and polar ice caps, then reflected back to the spacecraft's antenna.

Liquid water has been found about a mile beneath Mars south polar ice cap. The Mars Express team (otherwise known as MARSIS) believe that this new area they have found is actually a lake of sorts sitting below the Martian surface. We also have evidence that liquid water can still be found on the surface of Mars, from time to time.

Being able to access water sources could help humans survive on a future crewed mission to Earth's neighbouring planet. And because Mars has such a thin atmosphere, despite being warm once upon a time, the planet has cooled down and most of the water is locked up in ice.

And today it has been announced that scientists have discovered large pools of liquid underneath the planet's polar ice caps. This new finding comes from research using the Mars Express spacecraft that has been orbiting the red planet since 25 December 2003.

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Scientists found the lake by launching radar pulses from the orbiter to penetrate the surface and reflect back, revealing secrets from just below the surface.

New findings from Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.

Several researchers said it would be crucial to figure out whether this body of water is the only one, or part of an interconnecting body of underground aquifers - in part because a network increases the possibility it could have harbored life. Mars, like many frontier areas of science, has a history of exciting findings - such as the discovery of flowing water on the surface in 2015 - that turn out to be explained mostly by something far more mundane, flowing dust.

The comparison that springs to mind are the myriad lakes buried under the ice of Antarctica. It's situated near the planet's South Pole, where thick layers of ice have been observed in the past.

There is no reason to conclude that the presence of subsurface water on Mars is limited to a single location.
They would have to drill through the ice first to sample the water below. In the final evenings of this month, the planet looms like a red lantern in the East, just 35,784,871 miles from Earth - the closest it has been in 15 years.

"They haven't seen the light of day for hundreds of thousands of years", he said. "However, that also indicates that there might be much more liquid water in the Martian subsurface in other regions which we can not detect easily with MARSIS and SHARAD".

"This is now our best, albeit slim chance of discovering life elsewhere in our Solar System until the more complex missions to Europa or Enceladus, the moons of Jupiter and Saturn we also believe have subterranean water sources".

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