Using information from NASA and the European Space Agency, a study published by scientists highlights the possibility there is a huge lake of salty water buried beneath the surface of Mars.
The study was published in the journal Science on Wednesday, July 25 adds more fuel to the fire that finding life on the Red Planet could still be possible. To put it simply, water is essential to life as we know it and finding water on Mars is something scientists and researchers have long sought-out to do.
“Water droplets were seen condensing onto the Phoenix lander, and there may be recurring water activity on slopes during the Martian summer,” the study reads.
“However, stable bodies of liquid water have not been found on Mars. Published in Science’s First Release this week, report an analysis of radar data from the Mars Express mission that shows the existence of stable liquid water below 1.5 km of ice, close to the martian south pole.”
The Associated Press reports this would serve as the first finding of a large body of water on Mars. Scott Hubbard, a professor of astronautics at Stanford and former program director of the Mars program for NASA, told A.P. that the findings are “tremendously exciting.”
Using observations from an ESA spacecraft, the scientists report that ice caps similar to those on Earth exist at the north and south poles of Mars.
Hubbard told the news organization that its mantra back in 2000 was to “follow the water,” and that if this discovery holds up then it would be “thrilling because it’s the culmination of that philosophy.”
The water was discovered using the ESA’s Express spacecraft and its “Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere sounding” device. Those involved studied the water for three years, and spent the last two years taking a closer look at its findings to ensure it had detected water and not ice.
In the study, researchers report that they ruled out a “number of possible explanations” and conclude that “the existence of liquid water, either as a distinct water layer or as saturated sediments, as the only explanation.”
“Depending on the climate, the ice caps grow and shrink as a result of depositional and erosional events. This creates a unique stratigraphy within the ice caps, consisting of layers of equal age that scientists can analyze to derive information about past climate,” the study reads.
“Changes in ice flow owing to water at the base can change the appearance of these englacial layers; this needs to be considered when reconstructing their age. Analyzing these englacial reflectors, taking the new findings of liquid water below the SPLD into account, can therefore help unravel the climate history of Mars.”
NASA has continued to amp up its missions aimed at unlocking the Red Planet’s secrets as it successfully launched its InSight lander toward the planet back in March. This lander will aim to literally dig deeper into Mars than ever before.
Once it lands on Mars, InSight will become the first since the Apollo missions to place a seismometer on the surface of another planet or moon. The U.S. space agency has said InSight’s main goal will focus on improving its understanding of the formation, evolution and history of rocky planets including Earth.
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