Back in 2018, scientists discovered what they believed to be the first ever subterranean lake of liquid water on Mars, however at the time there was not enough data to confirm that this was the case.
Now though, radar data from the European Space Agency’s orbiting Mars Express spacecraft has not only confirmed the existence of this lake, but also identified three smaller lakes around it.
“We identified the same body of water, but we also found three other bodies of water around the main one,” said study co-author Elena Pettinelli from the University of Rome.
“It’s a complex system.”
Key to the discovery was the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) instrument aboard Mars Express that uses radio waves to determine what types of materials exist at any given location on the planet.
According to the findings, the larger, central lake measures 30 kilometres across while the three smaller lakes surrounding it are each a few kilometers wide.
The discovery is important because lakes like these could potentially harbor primitive alien life.
That said, in order for water to exist on Mars it is likely to have a very high salt content, which could pose a problem for its habitability.
“There’s not much active life in these briny pools in Antarctica,” said John Priscu from Montana State University. “They’re just pickled. And that might be the case [on Mars].”
It will likely take a future mission to Mars to find out for sure.