An exciting announcement came from NASA Monday morning that changes the course of human history. Scientists have found very strong evidence that flowing water exists on Mars.
Researchers have long wondered whether there is flowing water on the martian surface. The planet is frozen and, while there is proof that the planet used to be watery, the thin atmosphere creates an environment where there is no rain. Further, any water molecules in the air become vaporous and unstable in liquid form. The lack of flowing water also has pointed to the lack of life on Mars. That is, until now.
On Sept. 28, CNN reported that “Liquid water exists on Mars, boosting hopes for life there.” NASA confirmed the strong evidence saying that liquid water does indeed flow on the planet’s surface under certain circumstances.
“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water — albeit briny — is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”
Scientists and researchers have known for years that frozen water can be found at Mars’ poles. Recently, tiny puddles that appear on the martian surface during the night were also found. NASA reports that, in 2011, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter imaged seasonal water flows that leave behind dark streaks as they descend down crater, mountain and canyon slopes. The dark streaks grow longer in the summertime and fade as the martian temperatures cool. Thousands of these streaks have been located on the martian surface.
Researchers guessed that the streaks were evidence of flowing water. Lujendra Ojha, a graduate student at the Georgia Institute of Technology had an idea to gather information with a spectrometer, which allows researchers to identify molecules by noticing which colors each of them absorb. Researchers found signs of briny water using the spectrometer in four different locations on the planet.
The freezing temperature of salt water is much lower than fresh water. It also doesn’t evaporate as easily.
NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan expects that indications of alien life, past or present, will be found within the next decade with more definitive evidence presenting itself within the next thirty years. For more information on what the researchers are saying about the discovery, follow their twitter feed where live updates are being posted. To see evidence by way of a gif put together by NASA, go here.