The icy cap of Mars' south pole, which could be hiding incredible amounts of underground water. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/Bill Dunford

There Could Be Lots of Underground Water on Mars—Here Are 10 Things You Should Know

There could be liquid water on Mars.


Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California have presented a study proving that there may be dozens of subsurface lakes at the south pole of Mars, containing unbelievable amounts of underground water. Scientists note that this discovery would greatly help future researchers in studying the history of climate change on the Red Planet.

Everything you need to know about the hypothetical underground water on Mars

1. Back in 2012, the Mars Express Orbiter photographed the area at the south pole of Mars using a high-resolution stereo camera. The bright white area in these images has been identified as an ice cap composed of a frozen mixture of water and carbon dioxide.

2. Subsequently, several more works were published, the authors of which suggested that lakes with liquid water could be under the surface of the indicated area. In a new study, astronomers have studied in detail the radar signals reflected from the south pole of the Red Planet.

3. This data was obtained in 2018 by the European Space Agency. Radar then indicated the presence of at least one liquid underground lake. And now the researchers write that the studied radar signals indicate the presence of perhaps dozens of underground “lakes”. True, many of them are located in areas that are too cold for the water to remain liquid.

4. The authors write that initially the area, presumably containing underground liquid water, was limited to a distance of 10 to 20 kilometers, which was a relatively small area of ​​the south pole of Mars.

5. In the new study, astronomers have significantly expanded the search area. In total, they studied about 44 thousand powerful radio signals received over 15 years of observations across the South Pole.

6. The analysis helped identify dozens of previously unknown bright radar reflections over a much wider range of areas and depths than ever before.

7. In some places, they are located about a kilometer from the surface, where the temperature, according to scientists, is minus 63 degrees Celsius. That is, it is so cold there that the water could freeze even if it contained salty minerals. The latter is known to be able to lower the freezing point of water.

8. However, the authors of the work remind that in 2019 a study was published on volcanism on Mars. Based on it, scientists calculated the amount of heat required to melt underground ice in the region. As a result, they concluded that subsurface volcanism in the relatively recent past could explain the potential presence of underground liquid water below the South Pole of Mars.

9. However, no convincing evidence of recent volcanism at the South Pole has yet been found.

10. Scientists do not exclude that bright radar reflections may indicate not liquid water. However, they are not yet able to say what else can give such a signal. In any case, an important result of the new study was the creation of a detailed map of this region, which can help future researchers in studying the history of climate change on the Red Planet.

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Khuller, A. R., & Plaut, J. J. (2021, June 16). Characteristics of the Basal Interface of the Martian South Polar Layered Deposits. AGU Journals.
NASA. (n.d.). Study Looks More Closely at Mars’ Underground Water Signals. NASA.
Starr, M. (n.d.). Those Underground ‘Lakes’ on Mars Just Keep Getting More Mysterious. ScienceAlert.
Wall, M. (2021, June 28). Mars may have dozens of lakes beneath its south pole.


Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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