A new research published in Nature Geosciences has confirmed the presence of liquid water on the surface of Mars, this is an unusual phenomenon and it only occurs seasonally. NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) – a spacecraft that studies Mars from orbit, has collected the results for this discovery.
This is a groundbreaking discovery
The data collected by the orbiter have shown an array of weird dark streaks that appeared and disappeared seasonally on the surface of Mars. The analysis by the MRO confirmed that these dark streaks are in fact formed by salty water flowing down the hill on the surface of the planet.
The main issue under consideration is the relevance and reliability of the analysis as this is a very unusual but previously theorized concept. NASA has said that these findings are an answer to the Mars Mystery of whether the Martian surface has any water or not. Several researches have shown that water exists in icy form on Mars but it was only a theory that liquid water was present on the surface of Mars, up until now that is.
However, this is not the first time scientists have come up with some study that is suggesting the presence of liquid water on Mars. Scientists long ago theorized that Mars owned a large ocean almost 4 billion years ago. Also, according to a recent study by the Mars curiosity rover scientists have confirmed the presence of liquid water beneath the surface of Mars. According to Alfred McEven, the studies regarding the presence of water on Mars has become an amusing topic for planetary scientists. He is a planetary geologist and he also worked in the research regarding the same topic. He joked, "Congratulations — you've discovered water on Mars for the 1,000th time!"
All jokes aside this finding has set a benchmark evidence for the presence of liquid water on the Martian surface and has given the most direct evidence, something which older studies lacked. The study affirms to NASA’s already long suspected idea of water streaks with water flowing in them on surface. The dark streaks are called recurring slope linea (RSL) and were first discovered back in the year 2010 by the MRO spacecraft.
The streaks show seasonal changes in size and shape, during the warmer seasons on Mars they become longer and thicker while becoming shorter and faded during the cool seasons. This led scientists to the belief that salt and water were the reason for the creation of these lines.
"[The streaks] loved forming at temperatures that were right for liquid water to exist," study author Lujendra Ojha, a graduate student at Georgia Tech, told The Verge.
The average temperature on Mars is -62 degrees Celsius but during summers the temperature near the equator can reach up to 21 degrees Celsius. The team of scientists discovered that when the temperature was warm enough liquid water was filled with a type of salt and these mixed together and formed a brine solution that flowed downhill due to the surface features of Mars. Brine has a much lower freezing point than water because of the addition of an impurity; this trait allows it to stay liquid even in cold temperatures. The end results are dark streaks left behind due to these briny water flows.
By using spectrometry from the MRO the scientists were able to find that the dark streaks were composed of hydrated salts that have the molecules of water in their crystal structure. This gave direct evidence that liquid water is present in those streaks on the Martian surface. As for the source of the water the scientists noted that there can be three possible sources, one being the salt pulling water out of the atmosphere in humid conditions, the water may be in icy form and turns liquid as soon as it is in contact with the salts and lastly there may be an aquifer that generates the water needed on the planet.
Whatever may be the source the great thing is that water has been discovered on the surface of Mars and this is a very important finding, it will help us get a lot closer to the possibility of extra-terrestrial organisms and also help future projects. Microbial life can also be found on Mars after this discovery. We were never sure if water really existed on the surface of the red planet but now we are absolutely sure and there are better things to come in the future, we will keep you updated on more stuff like this. Let us know what you think about the discovery in the comments below.
Image Source: NASA