In Brief

Liquid water ‘lake’ found on Mars

Researchers say it is the first evidence of a persistent body of water on the red planet

Astronomers have found evidence of liquid water on Mars, trapped beneath the southern polar cap of the planet.

Researchers from the Italian Space Agency detected the small lake, believed to be just 12.5 miles across, using the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding instrument (Marsis).

A survey of the area around the southern polar cap revealed the presence of a body of water which looked “very similar to lakes that are found beneath Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets on Earth”, CNN reports.

It may not be the only Martian lake. “This is just one small study area,” said lead researcher Roberto Orosei. “It is an exciting prospect to think there could be more of these underground pockets of water elsewhere, yet to be discovered.”

The presence of liquid water on Mars has raised the tantalising prospect of discovering past or present life on the planet, but the odds are still long.

“It’s plausible that the water may be an extremely cold, concentrated brine, which would be pretty challenging for life,” Claire Cousins, an astrobiologist from the University of St Andrews, told the BBC.

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