Scientists believe they have found evidence of water on Mars, albeit in small quantities and only at certain times. Previous research showed that Mars contains water, and there once existed a whole ocean of liquid water, but this is the first time that researchers have found evidence of liquid water on modern day Mars, writes Rachel Feltman for the Washington Post.
Mars: Salts lower freezing point of water
A study published on Monday in Nature Geoscience claims NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered that small amounts of salty water are found on Mars during its spring and summer months. It is believed that the thin layers of water could form regularly on the surface of Mars before evaporating.
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Researchers have had difficulties finding evidence of water on the Red Planet because its atmospheric pressure is so low that any water goes straight from solid to gas, with no liquid stage that we are used to seeing on Earth. However the paper claims that some water on Mars is so saline that its freezing temperature lowers and liquid water can be observed.
Curiosity found perchlorates, a kind of salt which are capable of absorbing water from the atmosphere and turning it into a liquid. The presence of perchlorates means that liquid water can form when conditions are right.
Appropriate weather conditions during Martian winter and spring
Curiosity’s weather-monitoring equipment showed that these conditions occur on a daily basis in winter and spring. As a result, overnight frost turns into water and enters the Martian soil. Previous studies have suggested the presence of flowing water on Mars, and this latest paper corroborates that theory.
Curiosity is currently located in the Gale Crater, where temperatures are too low to support microbial life even if liquid water were present. However researchers believe that the conditions could occur anywhere on Mars, and are perhaps more likely near the poles.
Although the findings are exciting, the amount of water is minimal. Life is unlikely to be present on Mars right now, but it seems that the Red Planet was once much more hospitable.