Huge lake of salty water found buried deep in Mars

Between 2012 and December 2015 the Planum Australe region was mapped by the Mars Advance Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (Marsis) instrument carried on the orbiter.

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.

In recent years, planetary scientists and astrobiologists have been scouring the Red Planet for water, one of the requirements for life as we know it.

It will be decades before astronauts can visit the surface of Mars, and likely much longer before we can drill a mile beneath the dusty surface. Further evaluation of the bright feature indicated an interface between the ice and a stable body of liquid water. It was the first-ever radar sounder brought to another planet, but the team was unable to determine if it detected water on Mars until now. The rover Curiosity found an ancient streambed on the planet that held evidence of flowing liquid water. Further investigation revealed a roughly 12 mile wide area located around one mile below the planet's icy surface which produced a radio profile similar to that of one of Earth's subglacial lakes.

The result is exciting because scientists have long searched for signs of present-day liquid water on Mars, but these have come up empty or yielded ambiguous findings.

The publication states that the find is so large that it resembles subglacial lakes on Earth. The lake could be a possible habitat for life, the report said.

Water is thought to have flowed across the surface of Mars billions of years ago, when its atmosphere was thicker and warmer, cutting gullies and channels that are still visible. While the temperature is expected to be well below freezing point, only pure water freezes at 0 degrees, notes the release.

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Finding more liquid water on Mars may mean moving beyond radar technology, which is limited to detecting large quantities of water close to the surface. This keeps the lake at just below freezing temperatures, and it maintains a liquid state due to the enormous weight of the ice above pressing down on it. The interface between ice and water acts similarly, producing a bright reflection.

Being able to access water sources could also help humans survive on a future crewed mission to Earth's neighboring planet.

We discovered water on Mars.

After all, it isn't easy to explain the presence of water at Mars's south pole. This is the first spectral detection that unambiguously supports our liquid water-formation hypotheses for RSL. The process requires a detailed understanding of the radar signals that were transmitted downward toward Mars by Mars Express.

Some experts are skeptical of the possibility since the lake is so cold and briny, and mixed with a heavy dose of dissolved Martian salts and minerals.

This, however, is the best evidence to date of an environment on Mars that could be friendly to known forms of life - these "extremophile" bacteria - right now. "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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