Scientists believe they have discovered a sizeable body of water on Mars.
The body of water was discovered by a satellite scanning deep beneath the ice at Mars’ south pole. It is described as a 12-mile wide span that seemingly contains very briny water. The body is being compared by some to lakes found beneath sheets of ice in the Antartic. Already, researchers are buzzing about the implications of this discovery.
“This could be, perhaps, the first habitat we find on Mars,” said Roberto Orosei, a planetary scientist at the National Institute of Astrophysics in Italy.
However, there are others who are quick to throw an appropriate dash of cold water on the immediate implications of this discovery. First off, the water that was found on Mars isn’t what we’d traditionally classify as a hospitable environment. The water could even get as cold as minus-90 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s currently believed that the only reason the water is able to retain such an identifiable liquid form is because of the sheer amount of salty brine that it contains.
There’s even some debate regarding what to refer to this body of water as. While it’s comparable to water surfaces here on Earth, it’s dynamic enough to escape an easy classification based on the information that we have. Furthermore, because we cannot currently detect the bottom of the water source, scientists have not ruled out the possibility that this could just be a sedimentary layer that is covered with water.
Still, this discovery is potentially historically notable for the simple reason that it is one of the only times we’ve discovered a body of water on Mars that is more than just some frozen ice caps or the remnants of where water might have once been. Instead, this discovery gives new hope that there is an even more substantial water source located deeper within the planet.
“When extremes occur, life moves into the rocks. That’s a fundamental aspect of astrobiology,” said Jim Green, Chief scientist at NASA. “The concept of liquid water somewhere on Mars leads one to believe that there may be an environment that would harbor extent life.”
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