Published: Sun, July 29, 2018
Sci-tech | By Javier West

A large body of water is under the Martian surface, scientists say

A large body of water is under the Martian surface, scientists say

A study published on Wednesday in the journal Science has confirmed that liquid water is present on Mars.

Using the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding instrument (MARSIS), radar pulses were sent below ground to inspect 200-kilometer wide patch from May 2012 to December 2015.

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.

Those pulses reflected 29 sets of radar samples that created a map of drastic change in signal nearly a mile below the surface.

Previous discoveries have only been around temporary trickles of water and so to have found a massive reservoir of liquid hidden underground has been hailed a stunningly awesome result.

A massive underground lake has been detected for the first time on Mars, raising hopes that more water - and maybe even life - exists there, global astronomers said Wednesday.

The area is similar to that of lakes found beneath the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets on Earth, which also were detected using radar scans.

If other reservoirs are detected and a network of glacial lakes is uncovered - like on Earth - then it could indicate that water has persisted on Mars for millions of years, said Orosei. And, just like the subglacial lakes here on Earth, it is certainly feasible that life may also be found in the one just discovered on the red planet. In comparison, salty ocean water freezes at 28.4 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"This took us long years of data analysis and struggles to find a good method to be sure that what we were observing was unambiguously liquid water", said study co-author Enrico Flamini, chief scientist at the Italian Space Agency.

Most parts of Mars spend much of the time at temperatures too low to support liquid water at the surface.

He said: "Magnesium, calcium, and sodium could be dissolved in the water to form a brine".

"We interpret this feature as a stable body of liquid water on Mars", the authors wrote in the study.

"This lake, if it really is there, would be a prime place to look for life - after all, we have similar things on Earth, like the lakes buried beneath Antarctica, and life has been found to exist and thrive down there".

The discovery is the latest of many breakthroughs by Nasa's Mars missions.

Associate Professor Alan Duffy, lead scientist of Australia's science Channel, said the ending of Total Recall where Arnold Schwarzenegger melted vast ice reserves just became less science fiction and more science fact.

"All the technology to drill through this ice to the lake doesn't exist yet so it will probably take at least another 25 years before we will be examining this".

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