NASA Announces that There Is Officially Liquid Water on Mars

Monday, 28 September 2015 - 11:07AM
Space
Astrobiology
Mars
Monday, 28 September 2015 - 11:07AM
NASA Announces that There Is Officially Liquid Water on Mars

NASA confirms the presence of liquid water on Mars in landmark discovery that could impact our search for alien life


This weekend, NASA announced that they would make a huge mystery announcement about Mars. Of course we all hoped that they would announce extraterrestrial life has officially been found on the Red Planet (or, if we're really dreaming big, extraterrestrial intelligence), but alas, that didn't happen. But the actual announcement brings us one step closer to breaking that particular ground, as NASA has "strong evidence" that there is liquid water on Mars. 

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"Water is essential to life as we know it," the researchers wrote in the study. "The presence of liquid water on Mars today has astrobiological, geologic and hydrologic implications and may affect future human exploration."
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(Satellite imagery showing narrow streaks on the slopes of craters during warm seasons. These streaks fade when conditions become cooler. Credit: Nasa/JPL/University of Arizona/PA)


According to new data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, collected by a team led by geomorphologist Lujendra Ojha of Georgia Tech, shows that liquid water is seeping along the walls of Martian craters. Images from the orbiter's camera show that the slope paths that were thought to be caused by the flow of liquid water is seasonal, fading and reappearing in a cyclical manner. Furthermore, the orbiter detected the presence of hydrated salts in the flow paths, which indicates the presence of evaporated brine from an underground reservoir.

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"Something is hydrating these salts, and it appears to be these streaks that come and go with the seasons," Ojha said in a statement. "This means the water on Mars is briny, rather than pure. It makes sense because salts lower the freezing point of water. Even if RSL are slightly underground, where it's even colder than the surface temperature, the salts would keep the water in a liquid form and allow it to creep down Martian slopes."
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The Curiosity mission found the first evidence that there is currently liquid water on Mars back in April, but there hasn't been official confirmation until now. Curiosity also found the first signs of organic life on Mars in December of last year, in the form of methane spikes that seemed to come from a localized source, possibly microbial activity. There's no word on whether NASA has come any closer to determining whether there is microbial life on Mars, but the presence of liquid water is certainly a step in the right direction. Alfred McEwen, the senior author on the study believes these water creeks could be a huge boost in our search for alien life.

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These may be the best places to search for extant life near the surface of Mars. While it would be very important to find evidence of ancient life, it would be difficult to understand the biology. Current life would be much more informative.
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Science
NASA
Space
Astrobiology
Mars

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