The frozen south pole of Mars is hiding something and a group of European researchers believe they know what it is.
Buried thousands of feet beneath the frozen ground and stretching for 12 miles is a lake of liquid water, according to a new paper published in Science. The water alone is not what makes this news exciting. It’s what that water portends.
“I think the chances now of finding a place to look for current life have gone up,” Scott Hubbard, the first director of NASA’s Mars program, told NBC News. The discovery, which was made possible by a ground-penetrating radar on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft, is “thrilling and exciting,” he said.
The researchers who discovered the body of water don’t have a lot of concrete details to share, but they have some guesses. The 12-mile lake is estimated to be at least three-feet deep and an impossibly cold negative-90 degrees Fahrenheit. The researchers believe the water has remained liquified, despite reaching temperatures well below its freezing point, thanks to a salty “sludge.”
While discoveries related to water have been made on Mars for decades, what makes this one so significant is that rather than being frozen or long dried-up, this water is in liquid form. But some experts are cautioning that this discovery alone does not ensure the eventual discovery of life on Mars. “We are not closer to actually detecting life,” Dr. Manish Patel of Open University told BBC News, “but what this finding does is give us the location of where to look on Mars. It is like a treasure map — except in this case, there will be lots of ‘X’s marking the spots.”