There's Water on Mars—Why That's Such an Important Discovery

It's the best sign to date that life may be possible on the red planet
IMAGE 20th Century Fox

Mars already has a lot going for it. You can brew beer up there. The mountainous terrain is gorgeous. It isn't rapidly succumbing to the ravages of man-made climate change. And now, Italian scientists have discovered a lake filled with liquid water hiding underneath ice caps on the Martian south pole. That means there may be life.

The scientists who search for life beyond our planet first look for water, because you can't have organisms without it. On Mars, NASA discovered signs of flowing water back in 2015, but those amounted to little more than damp spots. NASA's Curiosity rover has explored lake beds that held water long ago, before Mars' atmosphere thinned, cooling the planet. There is also plenty of water frozen at the red planet's poles.

But Italian scientists, working on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission, found a liquid pool that stretches 12 miles wide. The measurements were taken using radar, and if they're correct, this is a huge deal.


"It is liquid, and it’s salty, and it’s in contact with rocks," Enrico Flamini, the former chief scientist of the Italian Space Agency who oversaw the research, said of the Mars lake during a press conference, per The New York Times. "There are all the ingredients for thinking that life can be there, or can be maintained there if life once existed on Mars."

We haven't discovered alien lifeforms quite yet. But now we know a good place to start looking for them. Cheers to science for giving us something cool to think about.

This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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