NEW YORK – A giant saltwater lake seems to be buried deep in Mars, raising the opportunity to find life on the Red Planet, scientists reported Wednesday.
The discovery, based on observations of a European spaceship excitement of experts. Water is essential to life as we know it, and scientists have long tried to prove that the liquid is present on Mars.
"If these researchers are right, we've found evidence of a large body of water on Mars for the first time," said Cassie Stuurman, geophysicist at the University of Texas, who found evidence of a massive Mars ice deposit in 201
Scott Hubbard, professor of astronautics at Stanford University, served as NASA's first Mars program director in 2000, calling it "tremendously exciting."
"Our mantra was then, follow the water." That was the one sentence that caught everything, "Hubbard said. "So this discovery, if it is, is simply exciting because it is the culmination of this philosophy."
The study published in the journal Science does not determine how deep the reservoir actually is. This means that scientists can not specify whether it is an underground basin, a hydrogen-like body or just a layer of mud.
To find the water, Italian researchers analyzed radar signals collected over three years from Mars of the European Space Agency's Express Spacecraft. Their findings suggest that a 20-mile (20-mile) reservoir is under an approximately 1.5-kilometer-thick ice sheet in an area near the planet's south pole.
You've spent at least two years researching the data to make sure they've discovered water, not ice or any other substance.
"I really have no other explanation," said astrophysicist Roberto Orosei of the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics in Bologna and lead author of the study.
Mars is very cold, but the water could have been prevented from freezing by dissolved salts. It's the same as putting salt on a road, said Kirsten Siebach, a planetary geologist at Rice University who was not part of the study.
"This water would be extremely cold, just at the point where it is about to freeze and it would be salty – these are not ideal living conditions to form oneself," Siebach said.
Yet, she said, there are microbes on Earth that could adapt to such environments.
Orosei said, "It's tempting to think that this is the first candidate where life could exist."
He suspects that Mars may contain other hidden waters waiting to be discovered.
Our planetary neighbor has been a popular exploration target, with rovers on its surface and other probes probing the planet from orbit. In May, NASA launched another spacecraft, the InSight Mars Lander, which will dig below the surface after reaching a flat level north of the Mars equator in November.
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