Mars shocker: Liquid water lake found on the Red Planet

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Still, water is water-and it could be a sign of potential life on the Red Planet, or at least a sign of potential support for a colony.

The European Space Agency (ESA) revealed today evidence gathered by the Mars Express spacecraft that shows an anomaly that could indicate the existence of a long-suspected liquid water lake beneath the exoplanet's surface.

"We interpret this feature as a stable body of liquid water on Mars". It sent radar pulses through the surface and polar ice caps and measured how the radio waves reflected back to Mars Express.

A team of researchers led by Roberto Orosei of the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica in Bologna, Italy, surveyed a region called Planum Australe, located in the southern ice cap of Mars, from May 2012 until December 2015. A particularly bright reflection below the layered deposits can be seen in a zone measuring about 20 kilometres (12 miles) across. But they find the permittivity of the patch to be higher than anywhere else on Mars-and comparable to the subglacial lakes on Earth. "This could be the first habitat discovered on Mars", he said in an e-mail.

In the past, Mars had already been home to bodies of water as evidenced by dry bed lakes and river valleys on its surface.

Since then, we've found gaseous water in the atmosphere and frozen water on the ice caps, but until now, we've never found a body of water in liquid form. It will also interest those studying the possibilities for life beyond Earth - though it does not yet raise the stakes in the search for biology.

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"The estimated temperature, which is to be debated to some degree, at the depth at which this water is occurring is said to be 205 K [90˚ F]", said Vlada Stamenković, a research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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. "Most importantly, this allows liquid water, essential for life".

Clifford said there was "always the possibility that conditions that we haven't foreseen exist at the base of the cap" that make it appear that there is water there. So first, you must find water. This keeps the lake at just below freezing temperatures, and it maintains a liquid state due to the huge weight of the ice above pressing down on it. "Because of this, there is no reason to conclude that the presence of subsurface water on Mars is limited to a single location". "If that were to be liquid water, it would be only feasible if there will be large concentrations of salts within it". The radar cross section has been tilted 90°.

However, Stillman, who was not involved in the research, said another spacecraft, or other instruments, need to be able to confirm the discovery.

In May, NASA launched another spacecraft, the InSight Mars lander, that will dig under the surface after it reaches a flat plain just north of the Martian equator in November.

"Nobody dares to propose that there could be any more complex life form", Orosei said. "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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