The discovery of the alleged underground lake was made with the help of the European Mars Express spacecraft and its MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding) instrument.
MARSIS, built by ESA and NASA, found a bright spot in radar signals about 1 mile beneath the ice cap in the Planum Australe region. This was interpreted by the Italian team involved in the project for ESA as a sign of liquid water.
The results of the study were published in Science magazine and were greeted with skepticism at NASA, which in a statement released late last week seems to be trying to distance itself from the findings.
While trying neither to confirm nor to deny the Italians' claims, NASA says the finding certainly “warrants further study” and “additional lines of evidence should be pursued to test the interpretation."
"The bright spot seen in the MARSIS data is an unusual feature and extremely intriguing," said in the statement Jim Green, NASA's chief scientist.
"We hope to use other instruments to study it further in the future."
One such instrument is fitted in the InSight lander, already en route to the Red Planet. NASA is thinking of using the machine's heat probe to gather crucial data on how much heat escapes the planet and where liquid water could exist near its surface.
The statement released by NASA on the subject is attached below.