Signs of Liquid Water Found on Surface of Mars

Despite its reputation as a forebodingly dusty, desolate and lifeless place, Mars seems to be a little bit wet even today.

Scientists reported on Monday definitive signs ofliquid water on the surface of present-day Mars, a finding that will fuel speculation that life, if it ever arose there, could persist to now.

“This, I think, gives a focus of where we should look more closely,” said Alfred S. McEwen, a professor of planetary geology at the University of Arizona and the principal investigator of images from a high-resolution camera onNASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience, Dr. McEwen and other scientists identified waterlogged molecules — salts of a type known as perchlorates — in readings from orbit.

“That’s a direct detection of water in the form of hydration of salts,” Dr. McEwen said. “There pretty much has to have been liquid water recently present to produce the hydrated salt.”

By “recently,” Dr. McEwen said he meant “days, something of that order.”

Images showing what scientists say is definitive evidence of salty liquid water flowing on Mars.

Though young Mars was inundated by rivers, lakes and maybe even an ocean a few billion years ago, the modern moisture is modest. Scientists have long known that large amounts of water remain — but frozen solid in the polar ice caps. There have been fleeting hints of recent liquid water, like fresh-looking gullies, but none have proved convincing.

SEPT. 28, 2015

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Source: Signs of Liquid Water Found on Surface of Mars, Study Says – The New York Times

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