Breaking in science news: evidence of possible liquid water on Mars’ surface

August 4, 2011

Credit: NASA (Click for full size)

NASA just released some pretty interesting news this afternoon. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has been taking photos of the surface of Mars for many years, and scientists have seen what looked like gullies on the surface. But, they had no way to confirm whether those gullies were caused by water or just sand sliding down a slope, or by frozen CO2. There is still no way to confirm for certain that what we’re seeing was caused by flowing water on the surface, but evidence is starting to lean in that direction. These dark finger-like features have been seen changing shape before- but on the colder side of the slope that faces away from the sun most of the day. That would point toward the gullies being caused by frozen CO2. These new images are of features on the warmer sun-facing side of the slopes, meaning the likelihood of them being caused by flowing liquid water is far greater. The most important thing here is to remember that this is NOT confirmation of liquid water on the surface of Mars. It is, however, highly suggestive of liquid water on the surface of Mars. This is exciting news because if it is indeed liquid water, there’s a much better chance that microbial life might still exist. Another important thing to remember is that we already know water exists on Mars- we’ve seen it as ice, both directly (Phoenix lander) and indirectly (radar soundings from MRO indicating water ice below the surface). The key to life though, is liquid water.

As usual, Dr. Phil Plait has a very good explanation of all this on Bad Astronomy, so I recommend checking that out. The NASA article can be found here.

2 Responses to “Breaking in science news: evidence of possible liquid water on Mars’ surface”

  1. Michael Horn Says:

    (MODERATOR’S NOTE: Please learn about this Billy Meier character at his wikipedia page before reading the rest of this comment.)
    It’s a funny thing, I tried to post on Phil’s blog ther but, by golly, I guess those fellows DON’T like being showed up for being Johnny-come-latelys.

    Here’s what I attempted to post, several times:

    Hi there Discover Magazine,

    Okay, let’s try this again. It’s probably better to just go ahead and post this (or let me know why not) rather than just make it look like you can’t handle the bad-for-business truth. I’ll even leave the links out in case that was the problem, okay?

    Wow, water on Mars, really? Do you mean kinda like what…Billy Meier first published in 1976 (with more in 1987), which can be found in an article titled “Will HUmanity Wake Time?” at me website.

    Gee, what a clever “hoaxer” he is indeed. Good thing we have these sharp young whipper snappers to set us straight about that!

    Heck, one day we may discover that there really are space curvatures search that term and you’ll find the article on my website) that are the opposite of black holes…as Meier reported in 1986.

    Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to get some scientific and astronomical information from someone who’s…been there.

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