A lake of actual water has been discovered on Mars

The findings, which are published in the journal Science, were made possibly by Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS), an instrument that resides on the 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. However, the latest discovery likely provides the "first evidence of life" outside the planet Earth.

"This is potentially the first habitat we know of on Mars".

Mars long ago was warmer and wetter, possessing significant bodies of water, as evidenced by dry lake beds and river valleys on its surface.

"We discovered water on Mars", says Roberto Orosei, a researcher with the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF).

The tool is called the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS), and was created to find subsurface water by sending radar pulses that penetrate the surface and ice caps. The "lake" is about 12.5 miles wide, at least 3 feet deep and is located under about a mile of ice.

For as long as anyone can remember, Mars was the planet that scientists, astronomers and stargazers looked to and wondered 'is there life out there?'.

"Maybe this could even be the trigger for an ambitious new Mars mission to drill into this buried water-pocket - like has been done for sub-glacial lakes in Antarctica on Earth", he added.

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"The fact that it's buried underneath the surface isn't a big surprise, because liquid water can not exist on the surface of Mars, it's simply not possible because of the atmospheric pressure is too thin", Enright said.

The water is likely to be below the freezing point for water (32°F or 0°C) given its location beneath the ice cap, but the presence of minerals such as magnesium, calcium and sodium perchlorate in the soil of the northern plains of Mars, "support the presence of liquid water at the base of the polar deposits". The pressure also changes the melting point of water.

"So, if there's a boundary between air and ice, or ice and dust, or ice and water, we get a reflection back", Stuurman said. Calculations have suggested that these conditions may be met at the Martian poles, where large ice caps composed of both water and frozen carbon dioxide exist.

We discovered water on Mars.

The reason for the reflections at these boundaries has to do with the electrical properties of the materials, and according to Stuurman, liquid water has radically different electrical properties than rock or ice. "Whether life has ever existed on Mars remains an open question". The NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter also has been pinging the Martian surface with radar waves looking for water.

"This is certainly not a very pleasant environment for life", he said. The radar cross section has been tilted 90°.

High levels of salt and temperatures dozens of degrees below zero do not bode well for any microbes trying to live there, Stillman says. "However, that also indicates that there might be much more liquid water in the Martian subsurface in other regions which we can not detect easily with MARSIS and SHARAD".

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