Article written by: Tolis Christou
Astronomers now know many hundreds of planets orbiting other stars in our Galaxy. These show an incredible amount of diversity in their basic properties such as size and temperature with no two planets being quite the same. But the Earth is still unique among planets within or outside our solar system in its ability to support life. It is also the only astronomical body we know of, able to sustain liquid water on the surface. This is probably not a coincidence, as water is thought to be a necessary ingredient in the emergence and proliferation of living organisms.
The Red Planet, named after the Roman God of War: Credit: NASA
Now scientists have announced the discovery, for the first time, of a cache of liquid water on a planet other than our own. The discovery was made using an instrument on board Mars Express, a probe launched by the European Space Agency back in 2003, now in orbit around the Red Planet for more than a decade. The instrument is used to shoot radar pulses down at the planet. The pulses penetrate up to several miles below the surface before they are reflected back to ...