NASA: Signs Of Liquid Water Found On Mars

Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Rex/REX USA.
Step aside, Matt Damon — real-life Mars has got some pretty big news today. NASA announced that a team has found signs of liquid water on Mars.

The findings, which are published today in a study in Nature Geoscience, suggest that salty water appears on the surface of Mars for a few months out of the planet's year. This is based on the previous discovery of dark streaks (called "recurring slope linae") on the planet's surface. Now, the researchers have been able to confirm that the streaks are formed when that salty water seeps through.

"Mars is not the dry, arid planet we thought of in the past," said Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters, at the announcement. "Under certain circumstances, liquid water has been found on mars." While there have been many hints that liquid water was present on the planet, this is some extra-solid confirmation.

Of course, the big question is what this means for life on the Red Planet. Whether or not earth-like microbes could exist there is still unknown, but Alfred McEwen of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona said there could very well be microbes lurking in the planet's crust.

The presence of liquid water on Mars may also make a human mission to the planet more feasible, and could point us in the direction of the most promising landing spots. But, the researchers still don't know where all that salty water is actually coming from (it could be a result of absorbing moisture from the air or the melting of frozen aquifers underground), because so much of the planet remains to be seen at the necessary high resolution. And, unfortunately, the dark streaks are in areas too steep and treacherous for little Curiosity to check out.

So, we'll stay tuned and look forward to 2020. "We are on a journey to Mars, and science is leading the way," said John M. Grunsfeld — and you can bet we'll be along for the ride.
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