Liquid water has been detected on Mars for the first time, greatly improving the chances of finding microbial life on the most Earth-like alien planet in the solar system. The body is in the shape of a rounded triangle, approximately 20 kilometers (12 miles) in diameter, laying 1.5 km (one mile) under the surface of Mars. This discovery by researchers using the Mars Express spacecraft marks the first time liquid water has been found on the red planet.
The underground lake was spotted under the southern polar ice cap of Mars, utilizing radar imaging. Unlike the Earth, the south pole on the Red Planet is smaller than the one that lies in the north. The Martian lake resembles similar bodies of liquid water found beneath the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica on Earth.
“This kind of environment is not exactly your ideal vacation, or a place where fish would swim. But there are terrestrial organisms that can survive and thrive, in fact, in similar environments. There are microorganisms on Earth that are capable of surviving even in ice,” said Roberto Orosei of the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica in Italy.
High concentrations of salt in this alien lake allow the water to remain liquid, despite temperatures estimated to be between -10 Celsius (-14F) and -70C (-94F).
The data which revealed the liquid water was collected between 2012 and 2015, and researchers have spent nearly three years confirming the findings, before releasing the news to the public.
Further research will examine whether other bodies of water also exist on Mars, which could suggest water there may have existed for billions of years, dating back to a time when the climate on that planet was temperate enough for life to evolve.