NASA Discovers Water on Mars

NASA Discovers Water on Mars

The possibility of life beyond Earth strengthened Monday with NASA’s latest discovery. They released a statement saying every once in a while, water flows on the surface of Mars giving potential for life.

John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA said, “The existence of liquid water, even if it is super salty briny water, gives the possibility that if there’s life on Mars, that we have a way to describe how it might survive.”

Researchers from NASA used an imager on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to confirm that water flows by looking at light waves reflected off seasonal streaks on the surface of the planet often associated with liquid water.

This discovery shows how those streaks absorb the light at different wavelengths associated with chemicals known to pull water from Mars’s atmosphere [this process is known as deliquescence], explained Georgia Tech doctoral student Lujendra Ojha, the original founder of the streaks while attending the University of Arizona in 2011.

The chemicals on the red planet keep the water at low temperatures and from boiling off in the planet’s atmosphere.

The theories for where the water comes from still remain unclear. Some researchers believe it has to do with deliquescence, melting surface ice by the sun, or even a liquid-water aquifer, but it still remains a mystery on what exactly causes this water.

For years scientists have been aware of water frozen in the poles on Mars, in its thin atmosphere, and now in small puddles that form on the planet at night.

The discussion of life on Mars or previous life is unknown. However, there is more evidence suggesting the possibility. Along with the new liquid-water discovery, there has also been methane and other gases detected on the planet by the Mars Curiosity Rover. Researcher Mary Beth stated, “There are more habitable conditions on the near surface of Mars then previously thought.”

Alfred McEwen, the head of NASA’s HiRISE high-resolution camera on the Mars orbiter said, “It’s very likely, I think, that there’s life somewhere in the crust of Mars, microbes.” He also stated that he is confident life will one day be found on the red planet.

NASA said that this discovery of water gives them a perfect gateway to searching for life beyond Earth. Without clear evidence before, they really didn’t know where to start looking. Now however, they have a general area where water forms which could mean potential life.