Sunday 25 September 2016

'Mars is not the dry arid planet we thought it was' - NASA confirms it has found water

David Kearns

Published 28/09/2015 | 16:21

The planet Mars is seen in an image from NASA's Hubble Space
The planet Mars is seen in an image from NASA's Hubble Space

NASA has discovered the strongest evidence yet of "flowing liquid water" existing on Mars, the space agency said on Monday.

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Scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration confirm news that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter identified evidence of "hydrated salts called perchlorates that have formed streaks on slopes on Mars' surface”.

These “hydrated salts” are able to keep water from freezing even at temperatures as cold as -70 degrees Celsius.

“We can say today that Mars is not the dry arid planet we thought it was,” said a NASA scientist at a press conference today.

“Our rovers has taken soil samples and we’ve found them to be moist and full of water.

"So yes, under certain circumstances, liquid water has been found on Mars."

The findings, which are described in the journal Nature Geoscience, offer an explanation for peculiar, long streaks that sometimes appear on sloping Martian terrain.

The perchlorates on Mars are forming the streaks, called recurring slope lineae (RSL), on the Martian slopes during the planet's warm season, when temperatures climb above -10 degrees Celsius, NASA said.

“The streaks then disappear during the cold season.

“For the past four years we’ve been working on explaining why these RSL only formed in the Spring. Now we know, they follow the Sun.

"These are dark streaks that form in late spring, grow through the summer & disappear in the fall."

Lujendra Ojha, one of the researchers on the project, said: "Something was hydrating these salts, and it appeared to be these streaks that come and go with the seasons.

"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."

handout image issued by NASA of Mars, as scientists believe that flowing liquid water is almost certainly responsible for mysterious features on Mars that change with the seasons Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/PA Wire
handout image issued by NASA of Mars, as scientists believe that flowing liquid water is almost certainly responsible for mysterious features on Mars that change with the seasons Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/PA Wire

Unfortunately for ET-hunters, on Mars "the water activity in perchlorate solutions may be too low to support known terrestrial life," NASA added.

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