A huge announcement came from NASA today – flowing salt water has been discovered on the surface of the mysterious red planet, Mars.
“Under certain circumstances, liquid water has been found on Mars” – Jim Green, NASA Planetary Science Director https://t.co/MvErxberG3
— NASA (@NASA) September 28, 2015
“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said NASA’s John Grunsfeld in a statement. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water — albeit briny — is flowing today on the surface of Mars.” The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter used an imaging spectrometer to detect water on slopes where black streaks were visible on the planet. The dark streaks became more pronounced in warmer seasons, especially when temperatures rise above minus 23 degrees Celsius, and then tended to fade or disappear in cooler seasons.
These downhill flows, also referred to as “recurring slop lineae” by NASA, are very salty in nature and scientists say it’s likely a shallow flow just beneath the surface, with enough water popping up above the surface to create the dark streams.
The dark streaks were first noticed in 2010 by Lujendra Ojha who was a University of Arizona undergraduate at the time.
“We found the hydrated salts only when the seasonal features were widest, which suggests that either the dark streaks themselves or a process that forms them is the source of the hydration. In either case, the detection of hydrated salts on these slopes means that water plays a vital role in the formation of these streaks,” Ojha said in a statement.
“When most people talk about water on Mars, they’re usually talking about ancient water or frozen water. Now we know there’s more to the story.”
The mission took multiple spacecrafts several years to make the discovery, said Michael Meyer with NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, and it will help to solve some of the mysteries of the red planet.
“It seems that the more we study Mars, the more we learn how life could be supported and where there are resources to support life in the future,” Meyer said in a statement.
Below is an animation of the seasonal flows in Hale Crater on Mars: