Scientists have discovered a massive underground lake for the first time on Mars. The new discovery has raised the possibility that more water and maybe even life exists on the red planet, astronomers said.
The about 12 miles (20 kilometers) lake is located under a layer of Martian ice, said the report led by Italian researchers in the US journal Science. This is the largest body of liquid water ever discovered on Mars.
“This is a stunning result that suggests water on Mars is not a temporary trickle like previous discoveries but a persistent body of water that provides the conditions for life for extended periods of time,” said Alan Duffy, an associate professor at Swinburne University in Australia. However, he was not involved in the study.
This lake lies almost a mile deep (1.5 kilometers) beneath the icy surface, where the environment is harsh and frigid, making it non-drinkable.
“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.
“Caution needs to be exercised, however, as the concentration of salts needed to keep the water liquid could be fatal for any microbial life similar to Earth’s,” added Watson, who was not involved in the research.
“This is the first body of water it has detected, so it is very exciting,” David Stillman, a senior research scientist in the Department of Space Studies at Southwest Research Institute in Texas, told AFP in an email.
“It is strange that SHARAD cannot confirm this discovery. In fact, SHARAD cannot penetrate through the ice here and no one understands why it can’t,” Stillman said.
“This suggests that something strange is going on here. Thus, I’m skeptical about this discovery.”
“There’s nothing special about this location other than the MARSIS radar on the Mars Express spacecraft is most sensitive to that region meaning there are likely similar water deposits below the ground all across Mars,” said Duffy.