Underground Lake Found On Mars Beneath A Mile of Ice

Game Changer’ Scientists Say Liquid Water Found on Mars			AFP		25 Jul 2018

"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.

What they believe to be a lake sits beneath the Red Planet's south polar ice cap, and is about 20km across. InSight is also the first mission dedicated exclusively to learning more about the planet's interior in an attempt to glean clues about how rocky terrestrial planets like Earth formed during the birth of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.

The supposed lake was discovered using radar technology on the Mars Express spacecraft which relayed data between mid-2012 and late 2015.

One of the 29 samples showed unusually strong reflections.

"This is the place on Mars where you have something that most resembles a habitat, a place where life could subsist", said planetary scientist Roberto Orosei of Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica in Italy, who led the research.

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. MARSIS' team interpret that feature as an interface between the overlying ice and a stable body of liquid water that would have to be at least 3 feet (1 meter) thick.

Several researchers said it would be crucial to figure out whether this body of water is the only one, or part of an interconnecting body of underground aquifers - in part because a network increases the possibility it could have harboured life.

That could lower the freezing point for the water, along with pressure from the ice above, the researchers said.

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Even if this new discovery is validated, experts are lukewarm about whether this body of water would be suitable for life. It therefore remains an open question whether the water is warm enough for life; perhaps Martian extremophiles are even more extreme than their cold weather terrestrial counterparts. "Most importantly, this allows liquid water, essential for life".

That life, however, would have to contend with another key factor making its aquatic environs possible: mineral salts that leach out of rocks and sediments to act as antifreeze.

The findings were based on data collected by radar sounder MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding), which was designed by Italian researchers with a contribution from Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Iowa in the United States.

However, within a 20 km-wide zone a particularly bright radar reflection underneath the layered deposits is revealed. On Earth, thousands of species of microbial life have been found in Lake Vostok, a huge lake buried under almost 4km of ice in Antarctica.

MARSIS uses radar pulses that go deep into the surface of Mars.

But it's a clue to how the terrain of Mars developed and to the planet's long term climate. It will require flying a robot there, which is capable of drilling through 1.5 kilometers of ice. The footprints are color-coded corresponding to the "power" of the radar signal reflected from features below the surface.

Scientists have also traveled deep underground into mines and found microorganisms related to ancient species that once lived in watery environments much closer to the surface. It is about 20 km across, say the researchers in a release.

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