VIA| Despite its reputation as a dusty, desolate and lifeless place, things seem to be getting a little wet on Mars.
Nasa scientists have reported that definitive signs of liquid water on the surface of Mars have been spotted, a finding that will fuel speculation that life, if it ever arose there, could survive. Good news if you’re Matt Damon ey?
The significance of today’s announcement cannot be overstated, for where we find water, we find life. At least that’s the case on Earth, as Dr Joe Michalski of the Natural History Museum explains:
“These results provide strong evidence that salty water occasionally flows on the Martian surface, even today. We know from the study of extremophiles on Earth that life can not only survive, but thrive in conditions that are hyperarid, very saline or otherwise ‘extreme’ in comparison to what is habitable to a human. In fact, on Earth, wherever we find water, we find life.
This finding is yet another example of water on Mars, but a hugely important one because it points to environments that could potentially be habitable to certain kinds of bacteria, even today.”
NASA scientists suggest that streaks pictured below were formed as a result of salty “flows” or “seeps” because they bear a striking resemblance to the shapes and curves that water on Earth makes as it flows along the surface of the ground.
Planetary scientists believe that the streaky formations were products of the flow of water, but they didn’t have concrete evidence for that notion until now, says Lujendra Ojha, a scientist at Georgia Tech who first spotted the streaks.
In a new Nature Geoscience paper, published today, Ojha and his colleagues present what they describe as “smoking gun validation” that it was liquid water flowing on Mars’ surface that formed these tear stains.
Right now, the team isn’t sure where the water is coming from, or how much of it there. “That’s the big mystery right now,” Ojha says.
Maybe the salt is grabbing moisture from Mars’ atmosphere to create liquid water; maybe the ice inside Mars is melting and percolating out. Either way, this is hugely exciting evidence that Mars could potentially support life — including human life, which gives justification to the upcoming Mars Onemission.