Welcome to Mars-now with a liquid lake!

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Stofan says finding liquid water is something scientists are extremely interested in scientifically, "because life here on Earth evolved in liquid water". The blue triangle indicates an area of very high reflectivity, interpreted as being caused by the presence of a reservoir of water, about a mile below the surface.

Whether anywhere other than Earth has harbored life is one of the supreme questions in science, and the new findings offer tantalizing evidence, though no proof.

The lake is approximately 20km wide and sits 1.5km below the Martian surface under a heavy polar glacier, according to academic journal Science.

Water on Mars is exciting. Scientists believe the water is kept in liquid form by a salty brine that Orosei and colleagues speculatively describe as a "sludge".

The principle is the same above Mars. A satellite broadcasts radar signals to the surface.

Evidence was gathered by the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding instrument, also known as MARSIS, on the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft.

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The subsurface lake could be similar to Antarctica's Lake Vostok, or to the subsurface seas thought to exist on the Jovian moon Europa or the Saturnian moon Enceladus. Life has been found in the poisonous, arsenic-rich waters of Lake Mono, California.

He said a back-of-the-envelope calculation indicated several hundred million cubic meters of water. While the temperature is expected to be well below freezing point, only pure water freezes at 0 degrees, notes the release.

However, no such conclusions are technically conclusive until a probe drills through the Martian soil and rock and actually takes a sip.

Prof Orosei from the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics led the study.

When most people talk about water on Mars, they're usually talking about ancient water or frozen water.Now we know there's more to the story. InSight is also the first mission dedicated exclusively to learning more about the planet's interior in an attempt to glean clues about how rocky terrestrial planets like Earth formed during the birth of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.

However, while the find is tantalizing for astrobiologists eager to find alien life, it's also a bit of a tease. It will require flying a robot there, which is capable of drilling through 1.5 kilometers of ice.

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This particular lake, however, would be neither swimmable nor drinkable. Whether microbial forms of life could lie within is a matter of debate.

Still, he said, "Having a stable body of liquid water today is very intriguing and worthy of study".

Carbon compounds and minerals have already been found on the Martian surface.

In order to remain liquid in such cold conditions (the research team estimate between -10 and -30 Celsius where it meets the ice above), the water likely has a great many salts dissolved in it.

"But there are terrestrial organisms that can survive and thrive, in fact, in similar environments". The discovery, published in Science magazine, was made by a team of Italian astronomers from various institutions.

An artist's impression of ESA's Mars Express spacecraft.

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Subsequent observations soon showed his ideas to be false, and they were conclusively put to rest in 1964 when Mariner 4 completed the first fly-by of Mars, with the first images of another planet sent back to Earth from deep space. The team then spent nearly a year analyzing the data, and another two years writing their paper and attempting to rule out non-aqueous explanations for what they had seen. "They're eating the rocks for energy".

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