A Large Body of Water on Mars Is Detected.docx - A Large...

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A Large Body of Water on Mars Is Detected, Raising thePotential for Alien LifeThe discovery suggests that the liquid conditions beneath the icy southernpolar cap may have provided one of the critical building blocks for life onthe red planet.By Kenneth Chang and Dennis OverbyeJuly 25, 2018For the first time, scientists have found a large, watery lake beneath an icecap on Mars. Because water is essential to life, the discovery offers anexciting new place to search for life-forms beyond Earth.Italian scientists working on the European Space Agency’s Mars Expressmission announced on Wednesday that a 12-mile-wide underground liquidpool — not just themomentary damp spots seen in the past— had beendetected by radar measurements near the Martian south pole.“Water is there,” Enrico Flamini, the former chief scientist of the ItalianSpace Agency who oversaw the research, said during a news conference.“It is liquid, and it’s salty, and it’s in contact with rocks,” he added. “Thereare all the ingredients for thinking that life can be there, or can bemaintained there if life once existed on Mars.”The body of water appears similar to underground lakes found onEarth in Greenland and Antarctica.On Earth, microbial life persistsdown in the dark, frigid waters of one such lake.The ice on Mars wouldalso shield the Martian lake from the damaging radiation thatbombards the planet’s surface.Jonathan Lunine, director of the Center for Astrophysics and PlanetaryScience at Cornell University, who was not involved with the research, saidthe finding transforms Mars from a dusty planet to yet another “oceanworld” in the solar system.“I think the more we explore Mars, the more intriguing and complex itbecomes,” Dr. Lunine said.
For years, “follow the water” has been the mantra of NASA and indeedhumanity’s search for life somewhere else. Without water, there is no life aswe know it. In recent years, that has led the space agency to contemplaterobot probes to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn,like Europa orEnceladus, where it is now known that salty oceans existunderneaththin shells of ice and where imaginative astrobiologists can envisionmicrobes or more complex creatures.

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Jessica Rabb

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