A massive and large underground lake has been found for the first time on Mars, raising expectations that more water – and maybe even some kind of life – exists there, international astronomers said Wednesday.
Located underneath a layer of Martian ice, the lake is about 20 kilometers in width, said the report in the US journal Science.
It is the biggest body of liquid water ever to be found on the Planet Mars.
“Water is there. We have no more doubt,” co-author Enrico Flamini, the Italian space agency’s Mars Express mission manager, told a press conference.
Mars is as of now cold, completely barren and very dry but it used to be warm and wet some time ago. It had plenty of liquid water and big lakes at least 3.6 billion years ago.
Scientists are very much eager to find signs of water forms on the planet because such discoveries will help them out unveiling the mystery of whether life ever formed on Mars in its past, and whether it might even persist today.
“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, who is not related to the study.
With the discovery of water sources could also help humans survive on a possible future crewed mission to Earth’s most neighboring planet, with NASA aiming to send explorers to the 2030s.
This newly found particular lake, however, would be neither ready to swim in it or drink it, and it lies almost a 1.6 kilometers deep beneath the icy surface in a harsh and frigid environment.
Whether any type of microbial forms of life could lie within is a matter of debate.
Some experts in the field are skeptical of the possibility since the newly found lake is so cold and briny, mixed with a heavy dose of dissolved Martian salts and minerals.
The temperature is expected to be very likely below the freezing point of pure water, but the lake can remain without liquid due to the presence of minerals like magnesium, calcium, and sodium.
“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.
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