The discovery, by an international team of scientists led by University College London (UCL), the Open University (OU), and the Free University of Berlin, of a frozen sea close to the equator of Mars has brought the possibility of finding life on Mars one step closer. This is the first evidence of there having been recent liquid water on Mars. Higher levels of methane over the same area mean that primitive micro-organisms might survive on Mars today. The 3D images of pack ice near the Martian equator have been taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera on board the Mars Express probe.
The results of the work by the team lead by John Murray (OU), Jan-Peter Muller (UCL), and Gerhard Neukum (Free University of Berlin) were presented at an ESA Mars Science Conference at ESTEC, Netherlands on 21 February 2005, and are to be published in the scientific journal Nature next month.
Professor Muller, Department of Geomatic Engineering, UCL, one of two UK co-investigators on the project, said: “This is a historic moment for Mars exploration when a previously neglected region reveals its secrets. Speculations that this area might have water close to the surface have been shown to be correct. This is one of many discoveries that we expect the European Space Agency to make with Mars Express and the Aurora programme, given future UK support.”
Leslie Bell | EurekAlert!
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