Scientists using ground-penetrating radar found a 12-mile (about 20km) wide lake about a mile beneath the southern ice cap.
Liquid water is an essential requirement for life as we understand it. The lake is very likely warmed from below by geothermal heat, while at the same time is insulated from the cold at the surface by the ice itself. It was home to plenty of liquid water and lakes at least 3.6 billion years ago.
Layered deposits at the south pole of Mars.
The ISA team's findings will appear in this week's issue of the journal Science, they will reignite speculation about the planet's geology and the potential for life on Mars.
Scientists will continue to work at discovering more water in order to figure out whether the newfound lake is a one-off, or in fact one in a network of resevoirs.
Professor Dempster said Australia had taken a leadership position on the matter, with University of New South Wales researchers examining business cases, mining methods, earth analogues, asteroid selection, asteroid navigation and other resources such as platinum. However, there are some forms of microbial life that thrive in subglacial environments on Earth that are salt-laden, so it's not impossible. These days, the planet is-by human standards, anyway-nhospitably cold and dry.
Data was collected for roughly three years using an instrument aboard the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft that penetrated the Martian ice caps and sent back radar pulses to the Express.
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Given its location beneath the polar ice cap, the water is expected to be below the freezing point of water.
These reflections "provide scientists with information about what lies beneath the surface".
"I really have no other explanation", said study lead author Roberto Orosei of Italy's National Institute of Astrophysics in Bologna.
This Dec. 2, 2016 image taken by NASA's Curiosity rover shows rocky ground on the lower flank of Mount Sharp, a mountain on Mars. So while a layer of ice and a layer of rock may both be weakly reflective, the boundary that occurs when ice sits on top of rocks will create a strong reflection that can be detected by an orbiting radar.
If you're now asking yourself, "Wait, didn't they already find water on Mars?" then you're not wrong.
"It is unusual that SHARAD can not confirm this discovery". The rightmost white line is the surface radar echo, while the light blue spots along the basal radar echo highlight areas of very high reflectivity, interpreted as being caused by the presence of water.
From May 2012 to December 2015, the spacecraft made 29 passes over this one region on Mars, allowing the research team to scan the area with MARSIS, and then combine those scans into a profile of the layers under the surface.
"Maybe this could even be the trigger for an ambitious new Mars mission to drill into this buried water-pocket - like has been done for sub-glacial lakes in Antarctica on Earth", he added.