Italian scientists have used radar technology to detect a potential pocket of water beneath the southern polar ice cap on Mars
A new study by researchers from the Italian Space Agency, published in the journal Science, found evidence of a lake beneath the southern polar ice cap on Mars. The scientists used a tool called the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding instrument, also known as MARSIS, to send radar pulses through the planet's surface and ice caps. The radar instrument detected a shift in signal beneath the surface that mimicked lakes found beneath Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets on Earth, as reported by CNN.
The area detected is 12 miles wide and at least three feet deep, but scientists speculate that it is likely frozen. The average surface temperature of Mars is minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and for a potential lake to be liquid it would need an extremely high salt content, as reported by the Smithsonian. Yet, a potential water body on Mars could mean there was once life or that the planet could be habitable in the future. The next step would be drilling through the planet’s surface in search of water, but scientists do not have the necessary equipment yet.
“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 neighbor planet and its habitability,” Dmitri Titov, Mars Express project scientist, said in a statement.