NASA finds signs of ‘flowing water on Mars’
Scientists say water is flowing on Mars during its warmest months.
Last Modified: 04 Aug 2011 23:16, Al Jazeera
NASA has said that its scientists had discovered fresh evidence that water is flowing on Mars during its warmest months, raising the likelihood that life could exist on the red planet.
Recently analyzed images from the NASA Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has circled the planet, show dark finger-like features that extend down some Martian slopes during late spring through summer, and fade in the winter.
“This is the best evidence we have to date of a liquid water occurring today on Mars,” said Philip Christensen, geophysicist at Arizona State University, in a NASA panel announcing the findings on Thursday.
NASA scientists believe that if flowing, liquid water exists on Mars, it would be highly salty. That would explain why it would not freeze in the planet’s cold temperatures.
“It is more like a syrup, maybe, in how it flows,” said Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, principal investigator for the NASA orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment.
The briny, flowing Martian water [if it exists] could be “rather different than pure water,” said McEwen, lead author of a report on evidence of water flows on Mars published in the Thursday edition of the journal Science.
Lisa Pratt, a bio-geochemist at Indiana University who was on the NASA panel discussing the results, said the findings were significant.
“It is our first chance to see an environment on Mars that might allow for the expression of an active biological process, if there is present-day life on Mars,” she said.
NASA first found evidence of water on Mars more than a decade ago, but earlier indications were that it would be mostly frozen and concentrated at the poles.