First Water Lake Discovered on Mars

The existence of extraterrestrial life in the universe has been perhaps the greatest mysteries of all. But this recent discovery seems to open a new chapter towards our search for life beyond Earth.

A massive underground lake has been detected for the first time on Mars, raising the possibility that more water, and maybe even life exists there. Italian scientists working on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission announced on Wednesday that a 12-mile-wide underground liquid pool, not just the momentary damp spots seen in the past, had been detected by radar measurements near the Martian south pole.

Liquid water lies unseen under ice (white part) at Mars's south pole; Credits: NASA

"Water is there. It is liquid, and it’s salty, and it’s in contact with rocks. There are all the ingredients for thinking that life can be there, or can be maintained there if life once existed on Mars.” says Enrico Flamini, the former chief scientist of the Italian Space Agency who oversaw the research.

The body of water appears similar to underground lakes found on Earth in Greenland and Antarctica. On Earth, microbial life persists down in the dark, frigid waters of one such lake. The ice on Mars would also shield the Martian lake from the damaging radiation that bombards the planet’s surface. Since humans could see through telescopes across space, Mars has been the favorite destination of imaginary life.

NASA's Curiosity rover on June 15th, 2018. A martian dust storm has reduced sunlight and visibility at the rover's location; Credits: NASA

The very first spacecraft photos of the planet revealed a dry, cratered and lifeless-looking surface, a seemingly dead planet. But now, things have changed. With the advancement of technology and our knowledge about the red planet, we can peep through a huge evolution of the history of Mars. 

Mars must have had a watery, perhaps life - sustaining past. Where this water went and how it went, leaving volcanoes at our visuals, is one of the greatest environmental mysteries of our era. If life did arise from those early, cozy conditions, it could have moved underground as the surface cooled and dried.

And if Mars was once flush with liquid, was it also flush with life? If astronauts ever crunch across the red sands, will they also be crunching over fossils of microbes?  Well that cannot be answered as of now based on the data that we have today.

A zoomed shot of the liquid water lake on Mars; Credits: NASA

An ecology professor studying Antarctica biology, with his team drilled into a subsurface lake there a few years ago, where they found microbes. As on Mars, the surface is barren, it is more hospitable farther down. 

“They (microbes) haven’t seen the light of day for hundreds of thousands of years, they’re eating the rocks for energy." says the Professor.

"If it were possible to drill a mile into Mars into the newly discovered lake, he said he’d bet there was life there too. “I’ve been studying life in ice for 35 years,” he said. “We’ve been finding life in places it shouldn’t be according to our current thinking of life. But that’s changing.”

Mars did surprise us..!! And we welcome the red planet to the world of life..

Credits: NASA

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