Space

Huge lake of liquid water found on Mars

Huge lake of liquid water foun...
A huge liquid water lake has been found on Mars, stretching 20 km (12.4 mi) and buried beneath 1.5 km (0.9 mi) of ice at the Red Planet's south pole
A huge liquid water lake has been found on Mars, stretching 20 km (12.4 mi) and buried beneath 1.5 km (0.9 mi) of ice at the Red Planet's south pole
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A huge liquid water lake has been found on Mars, stretching 20 km (12.4 mi) and buried beneath 1.5 km (0.9 mi) of ice at the Red Planet's south pole
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A huge liquid water lake has been found on Mars, stretching 20 km (12.4 mi) and buried beneath 1.5 km (0.9 mi) of ice at the Red Planet's south pole
A huge liquid water lake has been found on Mars, stretching 20 km (12.4 mi) and buried beneath 1.5 km (0.9 mi) of ice at the Red Planet's south pole
2/2
A huge liquid water lake has been found on Mars, stretching 20 km (12.4 mi) and buried beneath 1.5 km (0.9 mi) of ice at the Red Planet's south pole

A huge lake of liquid water has been found on Mars. The groundbreaking discovery comes after years of evidence of the Red Planet's watery past and icy present, but this is the first time a significant amount of the life-giving liquid has been detected. Discovered through satellite radar readings, the lake lies beneath the ice caps at the south pole of Mars, and has profound implications for future missions and the search for extraterrestrial life.

According to its discoverers, the lake lies below 1.5 km (0.9 mi) of solid ice, and stretches 20 km (12.4 mi) wide. Although temperatures at that spot plummet to about -68° C (-90° F), the water remains in a liquid form thanks to the heavy presence of sodium, magnesium and calcium salts. This, along with the immense pressure of the ice from above, lowers the freezing point.

The discovery was made by astronomers using the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) onboard the Mars Express orbiter. This instrument beams radar pulses down to the planet's surface and measures how the waves reflect back to the spacecraft, which can tell scientists what kind of materials lie down there, even below the surface.

Using MARSIS to survey a region around the south pole of the Red Planet, the team collected 29 sets of radar samplings between May 2012 and December 2015. A section of this area returned very sharp changes in the radar signals, showing up as a bright spot in the image that's consistent with a water interface. The radar profile, the researchers say, closely matches those of subglacial lakes here on Earth, beneath the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica.

Although it seems like "water found on Mars" headlines have been doing the rounds for years, this discovery is really what it's all been building to. The majority of modern Mars is dry and barren, but plenty of evidence has been found that the Red Planet used to be a much wetter place. NASA studies suggest a vast ocean covered the planet's northern hemisphere some 4.3 billion years ago, and lakes may have filled and emptied repeatedly over tens of millions of years in places like Gale Crater, the landing site of the Curiosity rover.

Nowadays, water exists on the Red Planet in the form of trace amounts of vapor in the atmosphere, or locked away in underground ice sheets and mineral compounds. Any liquid water was believed to be transitional, pooling in short-lived microscopic puddles or flowing down hillsides in the Martian summer.

The discovery of a large, stable reserve of liquid water on Mars is massive, giving us new potential targets for future missions and places to search for signs of past or present microbial life – although the sheer saltiness of it might kill those hopes.

The research was published in the journal Science.

Source: AAAS via Eurekalert

11 comments
ei3io
This is really great news for future outpost development there,,,
chinamike
It doesn't mean squat; water a mile deep isn't even remotely possible to get at--what? A rocket is going to take super heavy drill pipe there? Don't think so. Think how many lengths of very heavy pipe it would take to stretch a mile. Also, you have to have extra in case of damaged pipes. No, ice in and of itself will be the water source, but again, people on Mars would have to live near the ice cap, where the temperatures are even more extreme, because they aren't going to be able to haul the water to mid-planet, right? I still say and have always said for years, no reason to send people there to die, just to say 'look what we did!'. Keep sending robotic missions. The radiation, dust storms and extreme temperatures make it all pointless.
toyhouse
Our ancestors explored and many died searching the unknown. Nothing will ever stop us. It's what defines our species. It's in our dna. It's how we hopefully, evolve and survive. The payback from exploring is so profound, it can't be calculated. Ever since the first images came back of the surface of mars in 76, many of us have dreamed of the day the first humans would set foot on the red planet. I hope I live long enough to see it.
Nik
When, and only when, a group of people can survive for several years, in a totally enclosed, self sufficient environment on Earth, and then the same on the moon, will they be ready to try and survive on Mars. By then, perhaps interplanetary craft will have advanced sufficiently to take them, and all their necessities there. Otherwise, they will just be going to a party, a Donner Party!
chinamike
So, they find some microbes in the water a mile down, big deal. It wouldn't be worth the risk of life. Now, if NASA and private firms could develop a robotic system to land in that frigid pole region, that could self-assemble a water drilling rig, then OK. That would take a few robotic vehicles with arm/hand type appendages to do it. Sending people however, would be a death sentence.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Once asteroid mining takes off development of Mars will be very rapid. It will not be necessary to ship heavy materials from Earth. People will see Mars as a cure for their gravity ailments.
Majki
The only proper way to leave our planet is to edit our DNA and make our species more resistant to space travel (radiation resistant, lack of O2, cold resistant etc, etc). But then we won't be humans anymore as we know it...
Towerman
@chinamike to Add, It is only in liquid form because of the immense pressure heavy presence of sodium, magnesium and calcium salts. So bring it up it will freeze, what could live in those pressures temperatures and minerals anyway.
Nostromo47
A lake of liquid water under a kilometer+ of ice?! Sounds like the Jovian icy moon Europa or Enceladus orbiting Saturn with their sub ice sheet oceans of liquid water. Remote, maybe, but still highly intriguing as a possible repository of extraterrestrial life. And, of course, the presence of water, be it in the form of ice or a liquid, makes available a highly invaluable resource for human occupation.
RobWoods
Majki has the right idea, I always thought that editing our DNA would be the answer to space travel some day!