Liquid water lake detected under icy surface of Mars

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  • Subglacial liquid water lake detected on Mars
  • The lake is 20-kilometer wide and one meter deep
  • The lake was detected by Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding onboard Mars Express spacecraft

A 20-kilometer wide liquid water lake with an estimated depth of no more than one meter was detected on planet Mars.

According to Popular Mechanics, the lake was detected by MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding), the ground-penetrating radar on board the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft, which has been orbiting Mars since December 2003.

The lake is about one and a half kilometer under the icy surface of the red planet near its south pole.

The lake is salty, according to an Italian scientist involved in the Mars research.

“It is liquid, and it’s salty, and it’s in contact with rocks. There are all the ingredients for thinking that life can be there, or can be maintained there if life once existed on Mars,” Enrico Flamini, the former chief scientist of the Italian Space Agency who oversaw the research.

Artists’ impression: Marsis data shows an area of high reflectivity (dark blue) which is thought to be water

Fred Watson of the Australian Astronomical Observatory, who is not part of the research, said the discovery of the subglacial lake is bound to heighten speculations about life forms on Mars. He said caution must be exercised as the concentration of salts needed to keep the water liquid could be fatal for any microbial life similar to Earth’s.

Roberto Orosei, a co-investigator of the MARSIS instrument at the University of Bologna in Italy and lead author of the new study, said that a follow-up observation must be conducted to confirm the existence of the subglacial lake.

He said the liquid water lake detected by MARSIS has not been detected by another radar orbiting Mars onboard the National Aeronautics and Space Agency’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.