It wasn't all bad

Researchers believe they've detected 3 hidden lakes under Mars' icy surface

September 28, 2020
Space Imaging via Getty Images

The same scientists who reported in 2018 that they likely discovered a large saltwater lake under the ice on Mars' south pole believe they have found three additional lakes in the same area.

The researchers published their findings Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy. The scientists used radar data from the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft, which was collected by its Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS). MARSIS sent out radio waves that bounced off the surface and subsurface layers of Mars, and the scientists were able to determine the material present at each location based on how the signal reflected back.

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The high reflectivity indicated there were bodies of liquid water trapped about a mile beneath the ice, Nature reports. For their study, the researchers used 134 observations from 2012 to 2019, and they figured the lakes are spread out over nearly 29,000 square miles. "It's a complex system," the University of Rome's Elena Pettinelli, a co-author of the study, told Nature. While nothing is confirmed right now, Pettinelli said it is exciting to think that "there may have been a lot of water on Mars. And if there was water, there was the possibility of life." Catherine Garcia

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