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Scientists confirmed the presence of a lake, discovered in 2018 under the thick layer of ice at the south pole of Mars, and report the discovery of three more lakes on the planet. The discovery was made using radar data from the Mars Express mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) and was released on September 28, 2020, in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy.

The discovery of a single body of water under the thick layer of ice at the South Pole of Mars was made in 2018. The discovery then was based on 29 observations made between 2012 and 2015. However, scientists underscored the need for more evidence to support that discovery. For the 2020 study, the scientists confirmed the finding with a broader set of data, drawing on 134 observations made between 2012 and 2019.

The lakes extend over an area of approximately 75 thousand square kilometers, the largest of which is approximately 30 kilometers in diameter, surrounded by three smaller lakes with a few kilometers wide.

Scientists believe the findings indicate the possibility of a much larger network of ancient underground lakes, which could be millions or even billions of years old, when Mars was warmer and more humid, like Earth.

“The possibility of extended hypersaline water bodies on Mars is particularly exciting because of the potential for the existence of microbial life,” the team said. “Future missions to Mars should target this region to acquire experimental data in relation to the basal hydrologic system, its chemistry, and traces of astrobiological activity.”

Currently, water cannot remain stable on Mars’ surface due to the lack of a substantial atmosphere, but the presence of liquid water on Mars means that there is potential for life.

Humans are busy searching for signs of life, particularly evidence of ancient microbes, on Mars. 

The high reflectivity detected by the team of researchers suggests there are large bodies of liquid water trapped beneath the surface.

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