Last week, NASA promised that they would announce a “major science finding” from its exploration of Mars on Monday. As promised, NASA on Monday delivered news of an exciting discovery that they have found evidence of salty water flowing on the surface of Mars, the Red Planet.
According to the new research published in Nature Geosciences, water exists on the surface of Mars during the planet’s warmer seasons. Researchers also noted that perchlorates- a salt of perchloric acid, were present on the planet and these type of salt could make the boiling point of water on Mars much higher. These revelations were made using the spectral data collected by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).
Liquid water containing perchlorates are thought to be responsible for forming the geographic features called Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL) – thin, dark streaks flows that grows thicker and longer during the warmest month of the planet and shrinks when the planet gets colder. They are also known as Seasonal flows on warm Martian slopes and were first observed by the MRO spacecraft in 2010. Researchers reported lots of perchlorates appear to have been getting hydrated.
The pictures of Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL) at Hale Crater and dark, recurring streaks on walls of Garni Crater are shown below. [Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona]
“We’re going to places where we thought we were seeing the presence of water and finding chemical evidence of perchlorates,” Lujendra Ojha, the lead researcher told the Washington Post.
“And the correlation goes further than that: The hydrated salts seem to disappear in areas where RSL weren’t forming anymore, or were shrinking.”
“We’re observing the leftover molecules of water in the salt,” he added. “We’re finding evidence that they’re getting hydrated.”
Back in 2007, there was no evidence that supported the idea that RSL could be a product of seasonal water flows. However spectral data revealed by MRO’s CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars instrument) after having observed four different locations where the RSL are most extensive showed evidence of three different hydrated salts namely, magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate, at all four locations – confirms that salty water flows are responsible for the Seasonal flows or RSL.
Although it has been confirmed that salty water play a major role in RSL, researchers are yet to confirm where the water actually comes from. So, they talk about few possibilities. The water might be formed as a result of surface or subsurface ice melting, but the probability for it to happen is low around the equatorial region. Seasonal discharge of local aquifer is not likely to happen as well. Another possibility is deliquescence, since salts tend to absorb moisture from the air and dissolve in it.
If deliquescence of perchlorate salts is the reason behind where the water comes from, RSL could have major astrobiological implications, IFLScience reports.
In a statement at the Washington Post, Morten Bo Madsen of the University of Copenhagen who was not involved in the latest study said, “[The] flow of liquid salty water is no longer just a possibility; it does actually occur. The result shows that liquid does indeed flow on Mars today.”
The discovery of water on Mars consolidates the possibility of finding microbial life on the planet and boosts hope that the planet still offers refuge for some microbes. Google even honors this amazing discovery with a doodle titled: Evidence of water found on Mars.
“Today’s news stirred us like a long, cool drink in the blistering heat. Science has gestured at the presence of water on Mars before, but evidence of liquid water–briny, creeping flows that appear in a crater during Martian summers–has tremendous implications in the search for life beyond our planet. We felt compelled to honor such an exciting discovery with a Doodle, and staring at satellite images of Mars for inspiration made Doodler Nate Swinehart really, really thirsty,” said Google on today’s Google Doodle page.
Well, we already kind of knew Mars once had flowing water, but now we are 100 percent sure that water does exist on Mars. NASA’s Water World theory suggests that water is where life originated from, and now that they have confirmed there is water on Mars. Do you expect there could be other alien life forms too?