Scientists Believe They Have Found Liquid Water on Mars

Scientists Believe They Have Found Liquid Water on Mars

Scientists Believe They Have Found Liquid Water on Mars

Outside experts have not been able to confirm these findings with other radar detections, like SHARAD, the Shallow Radar sounder onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Italian astrophysicists Roberto Orosei, Elena Pettinelli and Enrico Flamini at the Italian Space Agency headquarters prior to a press conference in Rome.

Artist's impression of the Mars Express spacecraft probing the southern hemisphere of Mars. Water is especially reflective of radar, making the tool useful in the search for the life-sustaining liquid.

With surface temperatures as low as minus 68C, it would not exist as a liquid under normal conditions. The depth of the water is not known.

MARSIS surveyed Mars' Planum Australe region between May 2012 and December 2015 and utilized radar pulses, sending them through the surface and the polar ice caps, ultimately measuring how the radio waves came back.

The discovery was made using Marsis, a radar instrument on board the Mars Express orbiter.

One of the 29 samples showed unusually strong reflections. The interface between ice and water acts similarly, producing a bright reflection.

The findings appeared in the journal Science.

"Quantitative analysis of the radar signals shows that this bright feature has high relative dielectric permittivity (electrical polarisation) matching that of water-bearing materials".

Credit Getty
Credit Getty

Mars Express orbiting Mars with a cross section of radar echoes superimposed and tilted 90 degrees. Because it is salty, or briny, it remains in its liquid form and does not freeze. The study says it could be an underground pool or just a layer of sludge.

Either way, the discovery greatly increases the chances of extraterrestrial life existing on Mars.

Water is essential to life as we know it. Scientists have long sought to prove that the liquid is present on Mars. However, the presence of liquid water at the base of Martian polar caps was first hypothesized in a study 31 years ago.

"This is a discovery of extraordinary significance, and is bound to heighten speculation about the presence of living organisms on the Red Planet", said Fred Watson of the Australian Astronomical Observatory.

Together with the pressure of the overlying ice, this lowers the melting point, allowing the lake to remain liquid, as happens on Earth, according to the study.

Prof Orosei said: "It's a very promising place to look for life on Mars".

Researchers said they are not sure how far down it goes, but that it may be around three feet (one meter) deep. Learning more about these caps can reveal Mars' climate history.

He said: "Magnesium, calcium, and sodium could be dissolved in the water to form a brine". For now, researchers will continue to investigate this lake and search for water elsewhere on Mars.

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