Echoing the sentiments of David Bowie (Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars) or at least answering the question, “Is there life on Mars?” , scientists today announced that they are near certain that there is liquid water on the “red planet” that could sustain life.
The Mars water study
Writing in the journal Nature Geosciences, a research team explained today how through the investigation of infrared signatures in canyons and crater walls on the surface of Mars, they have determined there is a strong chance of finding liquid water on Mars. The tipoff for the team came when they found hydrated salts where the dark flows were present in “summer” but none before the dark flows appeared. These salts which are a combination of chlorates and percholorates nearly guarantee, at least to the researchers, the presence of water in all four of sites to which they turned their attention.
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“That’s a direct detection of water in the form of hydration of salts,” Dr. McEwen said. “There pretty much has to have been liquid water recently present to produce the hydrated salt.”
“These may be the best places to search for extant life near the surface of Mars,” said Alfred McEwen, a planetary geologist at the University of Arizona and lead author of the study. “While it would be very important to find evidence of ancient life, it would be difficult to understand the biology. Current life would be much more informative.”
Where is it coming from?
There is some dissent as to where the water comes from but most scientists involved in the study or those that have reviewed it believe that the water likely makes its way up from underground. Others suggest that it could condense in the thin Martian atmosphere.
“There is liquid water today on the surface of Mars,” Michael Meyer told the Guardian. Meyer, who heads NASA’s Mars exploration program continued, “Because of this, we suspect that it is at least possible to have a habitable environment today.”
What does it mean?
There have been a number of theories that have shown the possible existence of water in the past but this is groundbreaking. Additionally, it could help inform NASA and other space agencies as to where to land future rovers or where to land if a manned mission to Mars is ever planned.