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NASA

Scientists Excited By NASA’s Flowing Water On Mars Announcement

It appears the Red Planet has flowing streams of salty water.

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Scientists are reporting that Mars appears to have not only frozen water, but flowing streams of salty water — at least in the summertime.

“Under certain circumstances, liquid water has been found on Mars,” said Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science.

Green says recent observations “strongly support” the longtime theory that salt water flows down certain Martian slopes each summer. NASA bases its findings on data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been circling Mars since 2006. Because water is essential to life, the findings could have major implications.

“The fact that it could be flowing water is what’s really what’s exciting,” said Dr. David Alexander, director of the Space Institute at Rice University. “We’re really interested in whether there’s life somewhere else and whether the life is there right now or was there in the past, both of which would be a really interesting discovery and ups the probability a little bit that there might have been, might still be life on Mars.”

These dark, narrow, 100 meter-long streaks called recurring slope lineae flowing downhill on Mars are inferred to have been formed by contemporary flowing water. Recently, planetary scientists detected hydrated salts on these slopes at Hale crater, corroborating their original hypothesis that the streaks are indeed formed by liquid water. The blue color seen upslope of the dark streaks are thought not to be related to their formation, but instead are from the presence of the mineral pyroxene. The image is produced by draping an orthorectified (Infrared-Red-Blue/Green(IRB)) false color image (ESP_030570_1440) on a Digital Terrain Model (DTM) of the same site produced by High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (University of Arizona). Vertical exaggeration is 1.5.
These dark, narrow, 100 meter-long streaks called recurring slope lineae flowing downhill on Mars are inferred to have been formed by contemporary flowing water. Recently, planetary scientists detected hydrated salts on these slopes at Hale crater, corroborating their original hypothesis that the streaks are indeed formed by liquid water. The blue color seen upslope of the dark streaks are thought not to be related to their formation, but instead are from the presence of the mineral pyroxene.

Dr. Alexander shares the excitement that NASA scientists are feeling.

“We’ve known for a long time that there’s water on Mars, and we see it in the ice caps,” Alexander said. “You can see it from the earth. But for the most part, I mean even though there’s been a little bit of hope that there might be some water, you know, accessible to these missions, to find flowing water today is really quite exciting.”

NASA researchers say further exploration is warranted to determine whether any microscopic life might exist on modern-day Mars.

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