Washington — Using a radar instrument on an orbiting spacecraft, scientists have spotted what they said on Wednesday appears to be a sizable salt-laden lake under ice on the southern polar plain of Mars, a body of water they called a possible habitat for microbial life. The reservoir they detected — about 20km in diameter, shaped like a rounded triangle and located about a 1.6km beneath the ice surface — represents the first stable body of liquid water ever found on Mars. Whether anywhere other than Earth has harboured life is one of the supreme questions in science, and the new findings offer tantalising evidence, though no proof. Water is a fundamental ingredient for life. The researchers said it could take years to verify whether something is actually living in this body of water that resembles a sub-glacial lake on Earth, perhaps with a future mission drilling through the ice to sample the water below. "This is the place on Mars where you have something that most resembles a hab...

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