Water is found buried in Mars, researchers say

Data was collected for roughly three years using an instrument aboard the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft that penetrated the Martian ice caps and sent back radar pulses to the Express.

It would be at least 20 kilometers wide and would have to be "several tens of centimeters thick" - otherwise the radar could not have detected it.

An Italian team of scientists detected the lake while carrying out a radar survey using the Mars Express spacecraft.

Among the 29 radar samplings, the scientists spotted a series of unusually strong reflections bearing a distinct electrical hallmark.

Salts in the lake are believed to have kept the water - which has a temperature as low as -68C (-90F) - from freezing over.

It remains to be seen if more subsurface reservoirs of water will be found or whether the newly discovered one is some sort of quirk, Orosei said.

But now, hope for the potential confirmation of microbial life on Mars has been boosted significantly following the discovery of what appears to be a pool of liquid water buried beneath layers of ice at the planet's southern pole.

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A few years ago, biologists found more than 3,500 unique gene sequences in Lake Vostok which had been isolated for more than 15 million years; Lake Vostok gets no sunlight with it being 4,000 metres below the ice and has a recorded temperature of -89.2c, showing life to be hardy.

NASA is planning to launch a new rover as early as July 2020 with a mission to comprehensively determine whether life ever arose on Mars, while characterising the climate and geology of the red planet and preparing for human exploration.

"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". "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.

He suspects Mars may contain other hidden bodies of water, waiting to be discovered.

Radar data by the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft has revealed a 12-mile-wide lake of liquid water one mile below Mars's south polar ice.

But he pointed out that similar salty subglacial lakes in Antarctica had been found to support life. But there hasn't been evidence of stable bodies of water until now, the researchers said. He said the announcement might mean scientists pay more attention to what lies below the surface of the cold planet.

According to the journal Nature, if further studies confirm the existence of a lake, it could open new avenues for investigating Mars.

  • Douglas Reid