Science

Welcome to Mars-now with a liquid lake!

Welcome to Mars-now with a liquid lake!

A massive underground lake has been detected for the first time on Mars, raising the possibility that more water - and maybe even life - exists there, worldwide astronomers said Wednesday.

Even if this new discovery is validated, experts are lukewarm about whether this body of water would be suitable for life.

"It is liquid, and it's salty, and it's in contact with rocks", he added. There's no manmade craft or rover near Mars that can explore the area, and at present there's no plans to actually go to the site where the lake may be hiding. It stretched about 12.5 miles across and looked very similar to lakes that are found beneath Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets on Earth. Still, that might not prevent life from calling the lake home. Researchers are keenly interested in such reservoirs since they are reminiscent of subglacial lakes in Antarctica, which are teeming with microbial life.

These days, it's only about 20 percent - like we said at the top, conditions on Mars are not forgiving. But most of this water has disappeared into space and the reason is that Mars no longer has global magnetic fields, like Earth has.

For years, "follow the water" has been the mantra of NASA and indeed humanity's search for life somewhere else.

We know that abundant liquid water existed on ancient Mars. But some time in the past - probably about 3.8 billion years ago - it lost its atmosphere, stripped away by radiation and solar wind from the sun. But let's imagine that in the far distant past, Mars had life. (AAP) A provided image shows an artist's impression of the Mars Express spacecraft probing the southern hemisphere of the red planet.

Mars may have been a watery and temperate place in the distant past, but it's been a giant dustball for many eons. The surface is scored by old gorges, canyons, beaches, ocean basins and giant volcanoes, whose eruptions could have kept things riled up on the planet.

"There's nothing special about this location other than the MARSIS radar on the Mars Express spacecraft is most sensitive to that region meaning there are likely similar water deposits below the ground all across Mars", said Duffy.

"When extremes occur, life moves into the rocks". "We've been finding life in places it shouldn't be according to our current thinking of life". However, "SHARAD uses higher-frequency radio waves that cannot penetrate as deep as MARSIS can", Pettinelli says.

But until now evidence from Mars Express' MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding) instrument, the first radar sounder ever to orbit another planet, remained inconclusive.

Evidence for Mars' watery past is prevalent across its surface in the form of vast dried-out river valley networks and enormous outflow channels clearly imaged by orbiting spacecraft. But the scientists figured out how to send back the raw data to Earth. Once its air had gone, the water either evaporated or froze. "If that were to be liquid water, it would be only feasible if there will be large concentrations of salts within it".

Radar has found liquid water on Mars, but don't expect anyone to drink it
First lake of liquid water is discovered on Mars

"If there's really liquid water at the base, it should be showing up in SHARAD", Holt said.

So instead, they tried to come up with as many other explanations for what they were seeing as possible.

However, the presence of liquid water does not necessarily mean this region of Mars is habitable.

For some scientists, the bright radar reflection falls a bit short of proof. NASA provided half of the instrument, with management of the US portion led by the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

What do you think of the study findings?

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If it sounds like we've heard this before, well we have - kind of. Is it the only way that signal could be produced?

New findings from Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.

The water's temperature and chemistry could also pose a problem for any potential martian organisms. Further evaluation of the bright feature indicated an interface between the ice and a stable body of liquid water.

Dr John Priscu, a professor of ecology at Montana State University, has been studying Antarctica biology.

Through them, we have found abundant evidence that Mars was once warm and wet.

Based on the data, the researchers concluded the water reservoir sits 1.5 kilometers beneath the surface ice at the Martian southern pole and is 20 kilometers wide. The team then spent nearly a year analyzing the data, and another two years writing their paper and attempting to rule out non-aqueous explanations for what they had seen.

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