Scientists detect giant underground aquifer on Mars, raising hope of life on the planet

Jul 31, 2018

By Loren Grush

Mars hosts a huge underground aquifer of liquid water, according to a group of scientists who say they have found convincing evidence. The underground lake hasn’t been seen directly, but if it’s real, it’s a discovery that substantially increases the likelihood that the Red Planet might host life.

Researchers detected the possible reservoir with the Mars Express Orbiter, a European spacecraft that’s been orbiting Mars since 2003. While scanning the ice cap at Mars’ south pole, the probe’s radar instrument, called MARSIS, detected a feature about a mile underneath the surface that was about 12.4 miles wide. The structure has a radar signature that matches that of buried liquid water here on Earth, leading the team to conclude that there’s a lake under the glacier. The researchers say they’ve ruled out all other possibilities for what they’re seeing.

“I’ve run out of ideas on how to explain this in a way that isn’t water,” Roberto Orosei, a researcher at Italy’s National Institute for Astrophysics and lead of the team that found the formation, tells The Verge. “We’ve tried to exhaust every possible alternative, and we think we’ve done it.”

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