There could be even more water pockets on Mars, MIT expert says

Large Liquid Water Lake Just Discovered Beneath the Surface of Mars

Further evaluation of the bright feature indicated an interface between the ice and a stable body of liquid water. Italian scientists working on the mission announced that for the first time, a large body of liquid water had been detected by radar measurements beneath the ice cap near the Martian south pole.

Between May 2012 and December 2015, the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (or "MARSIS" for short) surveyed the region of Mars known as the Planum Australe, a 200-kilometer area on the planet's southern polar plain, which is composed of water ice, Carbon dioxide ice, and admixed dust. "And if you have conditions for life in one area of the planet that is in hydraulic continuity with other areas where liquid water also exists, you could have a very substantial subsurface biosphere that has survived since the planet's early history". "This subsurface anomaly on Mars has radar properties matching water or water-rich sediments", said Roberto Orosei, the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding [MARSIS] experiment's principal investigator and lead author of a new Science-published paper on the topic. When pointed at the surface ice caps of the planet, it measures how radio waves penetrate and reflect back to the spacecraft.

This salty water, together with the pressure of the overlying ice, could allow this body of water to remain liquid, according to the researchers.

Because it is located beneath the polar ice cap, the temperature in the lake is expected to be below the freezing point of pure water.

The team also suspects that while they have only found evidence for water at one location, it probably isn't the only subglacial lake on Mars. But most of this water has disappeared into space and the reason is that Mars no longer has global magnetic fields, like Earth has. If there is indeed a persistent body of water there, it could have huge implications for future Mars missions. First, scientists have discovered evidence of a buried lake; that's not the same as finding an actual lake. 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.

What appears to be a large underground lake has been detected deep below the ice cap at Mars' southern pole, a new study reports.

However, the presence of liquid water does not necessarily mean this region of Mars is habitable. That reflection is particularly strong at interfaces with liquid water, and shows up as a distinctively bright spot in visualizations of the data. Researchers are keenly interested in such reservoirs since they are reminiscent of subglacial lakes in Antarctica, which are teeming with microbial life.

This principle of following the water is key to astrobiology - the study of potential life beyond Earth. The study's abstract notes that it is surrounded by "much less reflective areas", a sign that it is indeed water.

The liquid water is locked beneath almost a mile of ice. When he and his team drilled into a subsurface lake there a few years ago, they found microbes.

There is already ample evidence that Mars likely had an environment that would have been friendly to life as we know it, long in the past. The team then spent nearly a year analyzing the data, and another two years writing their paper and attempting to rule out non-aqueous explanations for what they had seen.

Lastly, Mars won't be this close again to Earth until the year 2035.

"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".

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