Researchers Find Canyon on Mars "Packed Full" of Water

As scientists continue their search for life on planets other than our own, a common item they hope to find is water. After all, life, as we know it now, needs the chemical concoction to survive. Now, it looks like a group of scientists may have hit the motherload. Researchers with the European Space Agency have found a canyon "packed full of water" on the Red Planet.

"We found a central part of Valles Marineris to be packed full of water — far more water than we expected," Russian scientists Alexey Malakhov said in an ESA statement. "This is very much like Earth's permafrost regions, where water ice permanently persists under dry soil because of the constant low temperatures."

As part of the ESA's ExoMars mission, the Trace Gas Orbiter gathered data from Valles Marineris. The canyon is the largest in the entire solar system, roughly five times deeper than the Grand Canyon and more than 10 times longer.

"This finding is an amazing first step, but we need more observations to know for sure what form of water we're dealing with," Håkan Svedhem, the former ESA project scientist for the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and a co-author on the new study, said in the same ESA statement. "Regardless of the outcome, the finding demonstrates the unrivalled abilities of TGO's instruments in enabling us to 'see' below Mars' surface — and reveals a large, not-too-deep, easily exploitable reservoir of water in this region of Mars."

While this discovery doesn't conclusively support the idea of life on Mars, it is a major discovery that scientists. could research further.

"Knowing more about how and where water exists on present-day Mars is essential to understand what happened to Mars' once-abundant water and helps our search for habitable environments, possible signs of past life, and organic materials from Mars' earliest days," Colin Wilson, ESA's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter project scientist, said in the statement.

Cover photo by Universal History Archive/ Universal Images Group via Getty Images