Data from Europe’s Mars Express orbiter has detected a pond of liquid water buried beneath the Martian south pole.
The radar investigation shows that south polar region of Mars is made of many layers of ice and dust down to a depth of about 1.5 km in the 200 km-wide area analysed in this study. A particularly bright radar reflection underneath the layered deposits is identified within a 20 km-wide zone.
Analysing the properties of the reflected radar signals and considering the composition of the layered deposits and expected temperature profile below the surface, the scientists interpret the bright feature as an interface between the ice and a stable body of liquid water, which could be laden with salty, saturated sediments. For MARSIS to be able to detect such a patch of water, it would need to be at least several tens of centimetres thick.
The data here is somewhat uncertain, but is also not to be dismissed. It is very likely this is liquid water.
I must add that this is not really a big surprise. Many scientists expected this. Also, this water is not very accessible, and is also located at the pole, the Mars’s harshest environment. Just because it is liquid is not a reason to aim to mine it. There is plenty of evidence of ice in much more accessible and reasonable locations.
What this discovery suggests is that it is possible to have liquid water on Mars. The great geological mystery of the planet is while that much of its geology appears formed by flowing water, scientists have not been able to devise good climate histories that make that flowing water possible. This discovery helps those scientists in devising those histories.
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