A large underground saltwater lake has been found on Mars, astronomers announced yesterday. Radar images also identified three other nearby lakes, media sources report.
The latest discovery was made using data from radar instruments on the European Space Agency’s (Esa) Mars Express spacecraft, which has been orbiting the Red Planet since December 2003.
Ground-penetrating radar probed beneath the south pole’s two-mile-thick ice cap and found the lakes.
Water has been observed before on Mars, but only in the form of ice and gas. The Martian atmosphere is too thin to support liquid water.
Many scientists believe Mars was warmer and wetter billions of years ago, and photos taken by Nasa rovers have observed ancient river courses and lakebeds.
The findings suggest the underground region is a prime area to look for signs of life.
The lakes could be similar to subglacial lakes that exist on Earth, beneath the Antarctic and the Greenland ice sheets, where, despite the cold, bacterial life exists.
The news of this discovery comes just weeks after astronomers pointed to potential signs of life on Venus.