© NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
It may have a reputation of being a huge dusty red rock, but now researchers have evidence of water flowing on Mars, a finding likely to further fuel speculation that life could be found on the Red Planet’s surface.
Using an imaging spectrometer on-board NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Obiter MRO, researchers detected dark streaks dotted along areas of sloped terrain that appear to ebb and flow over time, lengthening during warmer periods and shrinking during colder spells. After analysing the infrared signatures of the streaks, they found that they contain hydrated salts that could lower the freezing point of water. This would explain the seasonal variations in the streaks’ patterns as the salty ice would melt in warmer weather allowing it to flow and refreeze during colder spells.
It is known that Mars was home to many lakes and rivers, and maybe even an ocean a few billion years ago but that most of the remaining water is frozen in polar ice caps.
“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 John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water, albeit briny, is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”