Scientists find first persistent water source on Mars

Scientists Detect Liquid Lake on Mars

Scientists Detect Liquid Lake on Mars

The temperature of the water in the 12-mile-wide lake is believed to be minus-90 degrees Fahrenheit.

"If these researchers are right, this is the first time we've found evidence of a large water body on Mars", said Cassie Stuurman, a geophysicist at the University of Texas who found signs of an enormous Martian ice deposit in 2016.

"This subsurface anomaly on Mars has radar properties matching water or water-rich sediments", said Roberto Orosei, lead author of the paper and principal investigator of the MARSIS experiment.

Since everything is a competition, perhaps this exciting discovery will inspire Donald Trump to improve NASA's budget to make sure the United States wins the race to Mars.

If confirmed, this would be the most significant body of liquid water found on Mars to date.

Still, he said, "Having a stable body of liquid water today is very intriguing and worthy of study".

Orbiters, together with landers and rovers exploring the Martian surface, also discovered minerals that can only form in the presence of liquid water.

Following news of the findings, social media was understandably enthused, with some wondering what it might mean for the search for extraterrestrial life. But it's a clue to how the terrain of Mars developed and to the planet's long term climate. Traces of water have been found in its atmosphere and leeching through its soils, but efforts to locate bodies of water - a likely place to find life as we know it - have not yet been successful.

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In order to remain liquid in such cold conditions (the research team estimate between -10°C and -30° where it meets the ice above), the water likely has a great many salts dissolved in it.

Researchers have long suspected evidence of water could be found on the Red Planet, a precursor for life on Mars.

The depth of the lake is impossible to determine using radar, which returns echoes from the boundary between rock and the bottom of the ice cap, meaning that the water could be anywhere between being as deep as Earth's Lake Vostok, to being a muddy layer just a meter thick.

"While the surface of Mars is inhospitable, there is the fascinating possibility that microbial life could survive and flourish in sub-glacial Martian waters", she says.

For the past 12 years, a spacecraft-mounted radar called MARSIS has been sending radio waves down to Mars, which reflect back information about the make-up of the planet below. They also realised that the radar signature matches that of ice-capped water in Greenland and Antarctica. "I see cells in it, but it's so briny that the cells-I can't get them to metabolize, " he said, referring to the chemical processes that all organisms undertake to survive.

This image provided by the ESA/INAF shows an artist's rendering of the Mars Express spacecraft probing the southern hemisphere of Mars.

The team gathered data using a sophisticated radar sensor known as MARSIS aboard the Mars Express spacecraft. SHARAD has been observing the subsurface of Mars since 2006.

"It will open up a very interesting area of science on Mars", he said.

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