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

Ismael LynchJul 26, 2018

"But it's a very exciting potential habitat for extraterrestrial life, and we'd love to try to explore it". Lake Vostok is a great analogue for the slim possibility that basic lifeforms might exist deep under the surface of Mars in a similar liquid environment.

All of that water is either locked up in solid form, however, or locked away in the distant past.

Water on Mars is exciting but laws of planetary protection state that we can not send any craft from Earth near a potential site of life for fear of contamination. Scientists have also confirmed that Mars, which is cold, barren and dry at the moment, was home to plenty of liquid water 3.6 billion years ago.

The European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter has been circling Mars since 2003. The study area is highlighted using a THEMIS IR image mosaic.

"There's nothing special about this location other than the MARSIS radar on the Mars Express spacecraft is most sensitive to that region meaning there are likely similar water deposits below the ground all across Mars", said Duffy. Researchers used MARSIS to survey the Planum Australe- the southern ice cap of Mars.

"MARSIS was able to detect echoes from beneath the southern polar cap of Mars, that were stronger than surface echoes", Orosei explained. But they find the permittivity of the patch to be higher than anywhere else on Mars-and comparable to the subglacial lakes on Earth.

The body of water is about 12.5 miles across and sequestered beneath almost a mile of ice at the south pole.

The water on Mars, then, is trapped deep under the ice, and you probably wouldn't want to drink it.

Orosei said the water in the Martian lake was below the normal freezing point but remained liquid thanks in large part to high levels of salts.

The European Space Agency (ESA) revealed today evidence gathered by the Mars Express spacecraft that shows an anomaly that could indicate the existence of a long-suspected liquid water lake beneath the exoplanet's surface.

The MARSIS instrument consists of a radar sounder coupled with a 40-foot antenna that sends and receive radar pulses that both bounce off the planet's surface and penetrate up to three miles underground.

It turns out that tell-tale chemical signature is shared by the MFF, which scientists think was once as large as approximately 50 percent of the area of the United States.

The reason for the reflections at these boundaries has to do with the electrical properties of the materials, and according to Stuurman, liquid water has radically different electrical properties than rock or ice. She says data resolution in the past was just too low.

In research published in 2011, SHARAD identified several spots in Planum Australe that have little or no reflectivity, which are called reflection-free zones. The radar cross section has been tilted 90°.

Their results suggest that a 20km-wide reservoir lies below ice about 1.5km thick in an area close to the planet's south pole. They found that the south polar region of Mars is made of many layers of ice and dust down to a depth of about 1.5 km. With the stunning findings, that debate is likely to be put to bed.

Since humans could see through telescopes across space, Mars has been the favorite abode of imaginary life, the backyard just over the fence where astronomer Percival Lowell imagined he could see canals and even cities webbing the orange globe.

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