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Radar Shows Evidence of a Subterranean Lake on Mars

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Scientists believe there could be a 20km-long lake siting under Mar's south polar ice cap

The researchers say the lake was likely able to stay liquid because of salts from Martian rocks dissolving into the water, coupled with the incredible pressure of the ice above.

Located under a layer of Martian ice, the lake is about 20 kilometers wide, said the report led by Italian researchers in the United States journal Science.

To find the water, Italian researchers analysed radar signals collected over three years by the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft. The reflectance times of the radar pulses acts as a probe to see what types of materials are hidden beneath the surface and its overall topology.

Orosei said the water in the Martian lake was below the normal freezing point but remained liquid thanks in large part to high levels of salts.

Previous discoveries have only been around temporary trickles of water and so to have found a massive reservoir of liquid hidden underground has been hailed a stunningly incredible result.

But now, hope for the potential confirmation of microbial life on Mars has been boosted significantly following the discovery of what appears to be a pool of liquid water buried beneath layers of ice at the planet's southern pole.

The location's radar profile resembled that of subglacial lakes found beneath Earth's Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets.

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If other reservoirs are detected and a network of glacial lakes is uncovered - like on Earth - then it could indicate that water has persisted on Mars for millions of years, said Orosei.

NASA is planning to launch a new rover as early as July 2020 with a mission to comprehensively determine whether life ever arose on Mars, while characterising the climate and geology of the red planet and preparing for human exploration. But there hasn't been evidence of stable bodies of water until now, the researchers said.

"This thrilling discovery is a highlight for planetary science and will contribute to our understanding of the evolution of Mars, the history of water on our neighbour planet and its habitability". The interface between ice and water acts similarly, producing a bright reflection.

Scientists have long known that Mars has water in the form of ice and certain minerals. The researchers said that the lake is about 20km across and at least one metre deep, which apparently qualifies it to be a lake according to the lead researcher.

Speaking in a recorded interview released by Science, Prof Orosei revealed that his team spent years checking their results before being confident enough to announce the discovery.

Still, the more measurements scientists can collect, the more confident they can be. The presence of the underground lake was discovered by scientists at the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF), in Rome, DailyMail cited.

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