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Water on Mars: Scientists Uncover Evidence of Lake Deep Beneath the Surface

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Scientists announced they have found evidence of a large saltwater lake hidden a mile beneath the surface of the planet’s south pole. If confirmed, this would be the first discovery of an existing body of water on the otherwise barren red planet. This could be a promising sign in the quest to determine if life once existed on Mars.

A team of Italian researchers, led by Roberto Orosei, a planetary physicist at the National Institute of Astrophysics in Italy, reported the discovery on July 25 in the journal, Science. The team was able to extrapolate evidence of the buried lake using radar data acquired by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft.

These results are a highly promising outlook in the ongoing search for present-day liquid water on Mars. While Professor Orosei maintains that this body of water is not a very large lake, it nonetheless “…qualifies this as a body of water.” He continues, “A lake, not some kind of meltwater filing some space between rock and ice, as happens in certain glaciers on Earth.”

If further studies are able to confirm this subterranean body of water, this could mean additional Mars missions to further investigate the planet. Possibilities include drilling into the crust of the planet using rovers. There are already several proposed missions to explore the buried oceans on Jupiter’s moon Europa, and this recent discovery could launch similar missions.

Scientists believe that billions of years ago, Mars was a fertile planet much warmer and wetter than it is now. Probes and landers on the surface on the planet have spotted ice, buried glaciers, and evidence of long dried-up rivers. NASA’s Curiosity rover has even been able to measure very minute traces of water vapor in the planet’s atmosphere.

According to the data, Orosei and his team believe the lake to be at least 1 meter deep and is most likely very salty to keep it from not freezing in the below-zero Martian atmosphere. This liquid water, along with the right chemical elements, could just be the necessary breeding ground for Martian life. However, until further drilling can be done, scientists can only speculate. “Getting there and acquiring the final evidence that this is indeed a lake will not be an easy task,” said Prof Orosei. He adds, “It will require flying a robot there which is capable of drilling through 1.5km of ice. This will certainly require some technological developments that at the moment are not available.”

Avid writer and reader with a curious mind. I'm always looking to get the most out of life! Follow me on Twitter @whatsaschoon

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