Water is buried beneath Martian landscape, study says

Water is buried beneath Martian landscape, study says

Scientists using ground-penetrating radar found a 12-mile (about 20km) wide lake about a mile beneath the southern ice cap. For this water to remain in a liquid state, the team believes that there are various salts saturating the liquid, keeping it from freezing over.

Scientists elsewhere tried to assess what the finding might mean about the possibility of life on Mars.

Italian astrophysicists Roberto Orosei, Elena Pettinelli and Enrico Flamini at the Italian Space Agency headquarters prior to a press conference in Rome.

Artistic impression of the Mars Express spacecraft probing the southern hemisphere of Mars, superimposed to a color mosaic of a portion of Planum Australe. The brightest reflections from the base layer - close to the centre of this image - is interpreted as a pond of liquid water.

The detection was made using the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) instrument on European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft.

"In Antarctica the water can exist because the temperatures below the kilometer-thick ice can reach melting point."

"Quantitative analysis of the radar signals shows that this bright feature has high relative dielectric permittivity (electrical polarisation) matching that of water-bearing materials". In 2020, the European Space Agency plans to send a rover to Mars that will search for more evidence of the presence of water or life. The process requires a detailed understanding of the radar signals that were transmitted downward toward Mars by Mars Express.

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"For water to exist under the surface it has to be deep and really salty, and that last part is significant because that is exactly the type of place you go look for lifeforms".

Previous research found possible signs of intermittent liquid water flowing on the martian surface, but this is the first sign of a persistent body of water on the planet in the present day.

Billions of years ago, Mars is thought to have had oceans and rivers, much like Earth. These days, the planet is-by human standards, anyway-nhospitably cold and dry. The profiles contain "evidence of liquid water trapped below the ice of the South Polar Layered Deposits", according to the study.

The lake, believed to be minus-90 degrees Fahrenheit, is similar to what lies beneath the ice cap in Greenland and the Antarctic. Learning more about these caps can reveal Mars' climate history. But there hasn't been evidence of stable bodies of water until now, the researchers said. A lake, not some kind of meltwater filling some space between rock and ice, as happens in certain glaciers on Earth.

"This is certainly not a very pleasant environment for life", he said.

"But there are terrestrial organisms that can survive and thrive, in fact, in similar environments".

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