MARTIAN SECRET: Discovery is beyond wildest imagination

Audrey Hill
July 29, 2018

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

"If there is actually a substantial liquid water reservoir or aquifer of some sort, I think that definitely increases the chances of life on Mars - bacterial or microbial life", said Mickol, now a postdoctoral fellow doing research at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.

Evidence was gathered by the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding instrument, also known as MARSIS, on the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft.

The lake was discovered on the south polar ice cap of Mars and is covered in a sheet of ice, the thickness of which is yet to be determined.

MARSIS surveyed Mars' Planum Australe region between May 2012 and December 2015 and utilized radar pulses, sending them through the surface and the polar ice caps, ultimately measuring how the radio waves came back.

One of the 29 samples showed unusually strong reflections.

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Mars is very cold, but the water might have been kept from freezing by dissolved salts.

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 wonderful result. It is believed the planet once was home to rivers and lakes before the climate significantly changed over the course of its 4.6-billion-year history. (AAP) A provided image shows an artist's impression of the Mars Express spacecraft probing the southern hemisphere of the red planet.

"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. And, say the authors, "there is no reason to conclude that the presence of subsurface water on Mars is limited to a single location".

"It's an exciting discovery, if it's true", said Tanya Harrison, Professional Martian and Director of Research for Arizona State University's Space Technology and Science Initiative, who was not involved in this discovery, "since we know that life can survive in subglacial lakes, and brine pockets inside glaciers, here on Earth". 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. Researchers have also likened the discovery to Antarctica's Lake Vostok.

Speaking in a recorded interview released by Science, Prof Orosei revealed that his team spent years checking their results before being confident enough to announce the discovery. When they found evidence of the subterranean lake, they were careful not to jump to conclusions, the scientists told NPR.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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