Evidence of Subsurface Martian Liquid Water Bolstered

'Opposition' to bring Mars closest to Earth Friday

Astronomical events set to light up the night sky

This difference is caused by the elliptical orbit of the planets and the fact that the orbits are not in exactly the same plane. In their quest to find out if Mars was ever able to support life, NASA's Curiosity Rover, which first landed on Mars back in August of 2012, found ancient lake beds.

It's called Mars opposition, and the planet's peak brightness will linger for about a week. Water ice and possible carbon dioxide ice does exist at the martian poles however and the presence of liquid water at the base of the polar ice caps has always been suspected. Scientists believe the water is kept in liquid form by a salty brine that Orosei and colleagues speculatively describe as a "sludge". However, after billions of years the effects of erosion have taken their toll here and, while still quite large, the Medusae Fossae Formation on the Red Planet is not what it once was.

Artists' impression: Mars Express probing the planet's surface. The properties of the material that lies between influences the returned signal, which can be used to map the subsurface topography.

This particular lake, however, would be neither swimmable nor drinkable, and it lies nearly a mile deep (1.6 kilometers) beneath the icy surface in a harsh and frigid environment. Layers of the south polar layered deposits - layers of ice and dust - are seen to a depth of about 1.5 km. MARSIS has surveyed the martian subsurface for more than 12 years in search of evidence of liquid water.

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Radar data collected by ESA's Mars Express point to a pond of liquid water buried under layers of ice and dust in the south polar region of Mars. "That's a fundamental aspect of astrobiology", said Jim Green, chief scientist of NASA, who was not involved in the study. "Now we see things that simply were not possible before", added Cicchetti.

"On Earth, nobody would be surprised by such a discovery". Now, because the Earth is close to its peak distance from the sun, it's closer to Mars. Is there life on Mars? "So Mars is illuminated by the Sun - like a full moon would be", Gilmore said.

The discovery is "very exciting", said Taskin Padir, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Northeastern, whose work has focused on finding ways to explore Mars by robot.

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