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Ancient underground lakes discovered on Mars

This beautiful ESA image of the surface of Mars is titled Cappuccino Swirls at Mars’ South Pole.

ESA / DLR / FU Berlin / Bill Dunford

Be sure to pack some arm movements and a really great exercise for when you fly to Mars. There can be a whole world of water-filled ponds hiding under the dry and dusty planet̵

7;s southern ice cap.

A new study led by researchers at Roma Tre University in Italy strengthens the case for one 2018 discovery of a hidden lake under the polar ice on Marsand then expands the find to include three new ponds.

The scientists used radar data from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter to make its initial detection of liquid water.

“Now, taking into account more data and analyzing them in a different way, three new ponds have been discovered,” ESA said in a statement Monday. The team published its study in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday.

The lakes appear to be lurking under a violent ice layer. The largest lake is about 30 kilometers across with a number of smaller ponds around it.

The researchers expect the water to be incredibly salty to remain liquid at low temperatures. A separate 2019 study suggested volcanic activity can help keep the water from freezing, but the current paper leans heavily into the salt concept.

“While it is not possible for water to remain stable on the surface today, the new result opens up the possibility that an entire system of ancient lakes may exist underground, perhaps millions or even billions of years old,” ESA said.

Humans are busy searching for signs of life – especially evidence of ancient microbes – on Mars. NASA’s new Perseverance rover will continue this quest from the surface of the red planet. Liquid water reservoirs would be a particularly tempting place to look for life, but it would be extremely difficult to reach these ponds. There are 1.5 kilometers of ice in the road.

We may not get any major responses out of the South Pole from Mars at any time, but it may give us a future goal for exploration when our technology is ready for the challenge.

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