Italian Space Agency says it’s found evidence of water on Mars

Sunday, 29 Jul, 2018

Judging from how radar signals beamed down to Mars bounced back to the spacecraft, the scientists believe they're seeing a 20-kilometer wide shallow body of water, capped by 1.5 kilometers of hard ice.

Between May 2012 and December 2015, MARSIS was used to survey the Planum Australe region, which is in the southern ice cap of Mars.

"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", Orosei said in a statement on the European Space Agency's website. This keeps the lake at just below freezing temperatures, and it maintains a liquid state due to the vast weight of the ice above pressing down on it.

The reason for the reflections at these boundaries has to do with the electrical properties of the materials, and according to Stuurman, liquid water has radically different electrical properties than rock or ice.

"This took us long years of data analysis and struggles to find a good method to be sure that what we were observing was unambiguously liquid water", said study co-author Enrico Flamini, chief scientist at the Italian Space Agency during the research. It is believed the planet once was home to rivers and lakes before the climate significantly changed over the course of its 4.6-billion-year history.

The scientists expect the water is very salty, otherwise it would freeze. But salts like magnesium, calcium and sodium already found on Mars could help the water to form a brine, which would lower the melting point to allow the lake to remain liquid.

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Radar data by the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft has revealed a 12-mile-wide lake of liquid water one mile below Mars's south polar ice.

There have been previous signs of liquid and water activity on Martian slopes, but never before a "stable body" - which strengthens the notion of alien life inhabiting the planet.

The discovery is the latest of many breakthroughs by Nasa's Mars missions. There are obvious parallels to Antarctica, where lakes have been discovered beneath glaciers in several areas of the otherwise frozen continent.

Indeed, scientists have found bacteria and other simple forms of life living in these kinds of extreme environments on our own planet, which use chemical reactions with salts and minerals to get the energy they need to live.

Rebecca Mickol, a former UA graduate student, and Tim Kral, a UA biological sciences professor, wrote about the possibility of certain types of microorganisms surviving and growing on Mars in studies published this year by the academic journal Planetary and Space Science.

The continuous white line at the top of the radar results above marks the beginning of the South Polar Layered Deposit; a filo pastry-like accumulation of water ice and dust.