Extensive areas of the subsurface of Mars may contain water at comfortable temperatures for microbes, a new study has claimed.
The scientists at the Australian National University had previously modelled the Earth and identified water that was inhabited and other water that was not.
They used the same technique to model Mars and were surprised to find that the results showed more water than they were expecting.
"Our models tell us that if there is water present in the Martian sub-surface then it could be habitable, as an extensive region of the subsurface is at temperatures and pressures comfortable for terrestrial life," News.com.au quoted Eriita Jones, lead author of the study as saying.
The team found about three percent of the volume of present day Mars has the potential to be habitable to terrestrial-like life.
This compares with only about one percent of the entire volume of the Earth being inhabited.
"We know that there is a hot, deep biosphere on Earth that extends to around five kilometres," Charley Lineweaver, co-author of the study, said.
"If there is a hot deep biosphere on Mars, our modelling shows that it could extend to around 30 kilometres.
"Our conclusion is that the best way to find water, or potentially microbes, on Mars is to dig.
"Sadly, NASA's Curiosity Rover, which is scheduled to land on Mars in August, has a limited capacity to scratch the surface 10 or 20 centimetres," he added.