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Sunday September 26, 2021


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Liquid water lake discovered on Mars, 12 miles wide...



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, international astronomers said Wednesday.

Located under a layer of Martian ice, the lake is about 12 miles (20 kilometers) wide, said the report led by Italian researchers in the US journal Science.

It is the largest body of liquid water ever found on the Red Planet.

"Water is there. We have no more doubt," co-author Enrico Flamini, the Italian space agency's Mars Express mission manager, told a press conference.

Mars is now cold, barren and dry but used to be warm and wet. It was home to plenty of liquid water and lakes at least 3.6 billion years ago.

Scientists are eager to find signs of contemporary water, because such discoveries are key to unlocking the mystery of whether life ever formed on Mars in its ancient past, or if it might persist today.

"This is a stunning result that suggests water on Mars is not a temporary trickle like previous discoveries but a persistent body of water that provides the conditions for life for extended periods of time," said Alan Duffy, an associate professor at Swinburne University in Australia, who was not involved in the study.

Being able to access water sources could also help humans survive on a future crewed mission to Earth's neighboring planet.

This particular lake, however, would be neither swimmable nor drinkable, and lies almost a mile deep (1.5 kilometers) beneath the icy surface in a harsh and frigid environment.

Whether microbial forms of life could lie within is a matter of debate.

Some experts are skeptical of the possibility since the lake is so cold and briny, and mixed with a heavy dose of dissolved Martian salts and minerals.

The temperature is likely below the freezing point of pure water, but can remain liquid due to the presence of magnesium, calcium, and sodium.

"This is a discovery of extraordinary significance, and is bound to heighten speculation about the presence of living organisms on the Red Planet," said Fred Watson of the Australian Astronomical Observatory.

"Caution needs to be exercised, however, as the concentration of salts needed to keep the water liquid could be fatal for any microbial life similar to Earth's," added Watson, who was not involved in the research.





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