There's a big, salty lake on Mars! Yeah, that's huge. Here's what we know.
Holy cow, there's water on Mars!
An artist's rendition of the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiting the Red Planet. Photo by AFP/Getty Images.
This is not a drill, Earthlings. It looks like our celestial neighbor has a big 'ol lake on it.
Er, maybe I should say, a big 'ol lake in it.
Italian scientists claim they've detected a large body of liquid — spanning about 12.5 miles across — submerged roughly a mile beneath a layer of rock and ice on the planet's south pole.
"Whoa" is right.
This isn't the lake! But this pic, taken by the European Space Agency's Mars Express, does show a Martian river valley where water likely once flowed — a long, long time ago. Photo by ESA/AFP/Getty Images.
These brainy folks spent the last two years sorting through data collected from the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft. Liquid H2O is the only feasible answer to what their radar's seeing.
As Roberto Orosei from the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics put it, "I really have no other explanation."
It must be water.
They're not exactly sure how deep the lake is.
But from what they can gather, the water isn't "some kind of meltwater filling some space between rock and ice, as happens in certain glaciers on Earth," according to Orosei, lead author of the study that produced the findings. It's a legit body of water.
Even though scientists know the lake is frigid cold — certainly well below freezing — its super salty consistency has likely lowered the melting point so that the water stays in liquid form.
Scientists have long suspected Mars was once a whole lot wetter than it is today.
Given that the planet's rocky, freeze-dried surface is scarred from what appears to be waterways from billions of years ago, scientists have gathered the Red Planet was once a lot more blue.
Mars' surface is one dry place these days. Photo by ESA via Getty Images.
But liquid water is the key to life as we know it. So if it's still on Mars ... well, you can put two and two together.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves!
These findings certainly don't prove Martians are paddle-boarding around their planet's south pole.
"We are not closer to actually detecting life," Dr. Manish Patel of the Open University told BBC News. "But what this finding does is give us the location of where to look [for potential life] on Mars."
"It is like a treasure map," Patel concluded. "Except in this case, there will be lots of 'X's marking the spots."
Let's get to searching, Earthlings.