There’s seemingly endless evidence that water once flowed on the Martian surface, and in addition to that, many theories exist concerning the presence of water just beneath the planet’s surface. But these things aside, detecting liquid water on Mars has been an ongoing challenge for researchers.
With that in mind, it’s not difficult to understand why the first-ever detection of liquid water beneath Mars’ surface is receiving loads of attention as of late. The findings appear in the journal Science.
Image Credit: USGS Astrogeology Science Center, Arizona State University, INAF
After spending almost two years analyzing radar data from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft, a team of researchers led by Roberto Orosei of Italy’s National Institute of Astrophysics in Bologna say they’ve found evidence for a briny lake residing about a mile underneath Mars’ polar ice caps.
The researchers say they’ve ruled out the possibility that their detection could be underground ice, and instead signify that it’s a 12-mile-wide sub-surface liquid water lake. Assuming the findings are correct, then this would mark the first time scientists have found a large body of water on Mars.
“I really have no other explanation,” Orosei said.
"This is just one small study area; it is an exciting prospect to think there could be more of these underground pockets of water elsewhere, yet to be discovered."
Not only do the results set a precedent in Mars-based research, but they also breathe new life into the longstanding notion that Mars could support alien life.
“Water is there,” added study co-author Enrico Flamini.
“It is liquid, and it’s salty, and it’s in contact with rocks,” he added. “There are all the ingredients for thinking that life can be there, or can be maintained there if life once existed on Mars.”
At this point, the findings are preliminary and limited; additional research is needed to validate these claims and to test the underground environment for potential habitability.
Assuming the researchers are right on this one, then it could change how we think about Mars.