Water on Mars

 

<img src="mars.jpg" alt="Mars" width="300" height="124">

NASA Confirms: Liquid Water on Mars

NASA has now confirmed that there is evidence of liquid water on Mars at the present day. Although it is known that Mars once had an ocean that may have covered a third of its surface, and that there is ice on Mars, liquid water has only now been confirmed.

Where is the Water?

Steep slopes close to Mars’ equator, including that of the Coprates Chasma, are marked by dark streaks called recurring slope lineae. These are produced by flowing saltwater and observations suggest that the water appears during warmer seasons where the temperatures are above -23 °C.

The recurring slope lineae was first spotted in 2010 by Lujendra Ojha, then an undergraduate student at the University of Arizona, on photos which had been taken by the HiRISE camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Where is the Water Coming From?

One of the questions scientists now need to answer is where this liquid water on Mars is coming from. At the moment the team is favouring the hypothesis that the water is atmospheric in origin. This means that the surface salts are absorbing water from the surrounding atmosphere. A second hypothesis is that the water is fueled by an aquifer or melting subsurface ice.

Life on Mars?

The finding of liquid water on Mars at the present new and exciting questions as to whether life could exist on the Red Planet. It is still unclear if the saltwater’s composition could support life (for instance in the form of bacteria), but that will form part of the studies going forward. “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”, Michael Meyer – NASA’s lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program – said.

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