Have NASA Discovered Flowing Water On Mars?

Tuesday, 11 February 2014 - 10:16AM
Space
Astrobiology
Mars
Tuesday, 11 February 2014 - 10:16AM
Have NASA Discovered Flowing Water On Mars?

NASA have received the strongest sign yet that the surface of Mars might still play host to flowing liquid water. The evidence comes in the form of a series of dark lines that inch their way down martian slopes and increase in length as temperatures on the red planet rise. The fact that these lines appear to darken and lengthen during the warmer months would seem to suggest that even now there is a freeze and thaw pattern occurring on Mars.

 

It has long since been theorized that Mars liquid water may have once been present on the surface of Mars, but the optimism of scientists generally stopped with the theory that this water, at best would be frozen solid and with surface temperatures averaging around -80f, that's not an unreasonable conclusion to make. However, mineral mapping as seen in the image above appears to support a theory that this water contains a high iron content which gives the water a kind of built in anti-freeze. 

 

The lines spotted in images like this one are called recurring slope lineae (RSL) and as this NASA write-upstates, RSL are currently 3 of the hottest letters in the scientific community. Should RSL lead to the discovery of liquid water on the surface of Mars, the implications would be massively significant. Here's what Richard Zurek, from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory had to say about the potential discovery..

 

"The flow of water, even briny water, anywhere on Mars today would be a major discovery, impacting our understanding of present climate change on Mars and possibly indicating potential habitats for life  near the surface on modern Mars."

 

But this isn't a lock yet. Researchers who gathered this data still need to work through their findings but confidence is certainly high. 

"We still don't have a smoking gun for the existence of water in RSL, although we're not sure how the process would take place without the presence of water."

 

So keep your fingers crossed, because between the potential discovery of water on Mars and SETI's confidence at discovering alien life by 2040, we could be in for a huge few years in terms of scientific discoveries.

Science
NASA
Space
Astrobiology
Mars