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Liquid Water on Mars

ESA/ATG MEDIALAB (MARS EXPRESS); ESA/MPS/ROSETTA OSIRIS TEAM (MARS)

There’s big news from Mars: Scientists recently discovered signs of an underground lake beneath ice sheets on the planet’s south pole. If confirmed, it would be the first body of liquid water ever found on the Red Planet.

Evidence of the lake came from data collected by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express probe, which is currently orbiting Mars. As the probe revolves around the planet, its radar system sends invisible radio waves to the Martian surface. By analyzing how radio waves reflect off layers under the ice, scientists can get a better picture of what lies beneath—including bodies of water.

Liquid water is a necessary ingredient for life—and Mars’s hidden lake might be a good place to find it. “The discovery raises several questions,” says Jonathan Lunine, an astrophysicist at Cornell University in New York. “Could life exist in that lake? Where else might there be liquid water on Mars? And where do we go to find it?”

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