A new study by Italian scientists has detected a massive underground lake on Mars, raising the possibility of finding more water on the Red Planet, the international news agency AFP has reported.
The study was carried out by a team of scientists from the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica in Bologna, Italy, and was published in the US journal, Science.
Lead author Roberto Orosei surveyed a region called Planum Australe, located in the southern ice cap of Mars, from May 2012 until December 2015. He used a radar instrument called the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) which is on board the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter, which launched in 2003.
MARSIS was designed to find subsurface water by sending radar pulses that penetrate the surface and ice caps. It "then measures how the radio waves propagate and reflect back to the spacecraft." These reflections "provide scientists with information about what lies beneath the surface."
A total of 29 sets of radar samplings showed a "very sharp change in its associated radar signal," allowing Orosei and his team to map the outlines of the lake.
The report said that the radar profile of the area was similar to that of lakes of liquid water found beneath the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets on Earth.
Because it is located beneath the polar ice cap, the temperature in the lake is expected to be below the freezing point of pure water. But salts like magnesium, calcium and sodium already found on Mars could help the water to form a brine, which would lower the melting point to allow the lake to remain liquid.
It was 31 years ago that a study first hypothesized the presence of liquid water at the base of Martian polar caps. Scientists have also confirmed that Mars, which is cold, barren and dry at the moment, was home to plenty of liquid water 3.6 billion years ago.
"This is just one small study area; it is an exciting prospect to think there could be more of these underground pockets of water elsewhere, yet to be discovered," Orosei told CNN.
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