Until now, water was only detected in the form of ice on the red planet, but data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has confirmed that “dark streaks” on the Martian landscape are proof of liquid, flowing water. These streaks are thought to be a sign of saline water flowing down Martian hills and canyons during the summer months.
Michael Meyer, the lead scientist on NASA’s ongoing Mars missions, told the Guardian this discovery suggested a potentially habitable environment for life on Mars.
"Under certain circumstances, liquid water has been found on Mars" – Jim Green, NASA Planetary Science Directorhttps://t.co/MvErxberG3
— NASA (@NASA) September 28, 2015
People have been speculating about this announcement since last week, when NASA posted a press release titled “NASA to announce Mars mystery solved.” The smart money was on a water-related announcement, as NASA scientists had already stated that the dark streaks on the Martian surface “might be evidence of salty liquid water,” as long ago as 2011. However, it’s still exciting to see this confirmed.
This discovery will help scientists focus their search for life on Mars, which—if it exists—will most likely be in microbial form.
It’s important to note that while liquid water does exist on Mars, it isn’t melting at the typical temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The surface is still far, far colder than we’re used to on Earth, with the ice melting at -9.4 degrees due to the presence of salts dissolved in the water. So, don’t get too excited about the idea of a habitable Martian colony just yet.
Photo via NASA/Wikimedia (Public Domain)