All of a sudden, everyone is talking about the recent discovery of water on Mars. People sure seem to be excited, but why is it so exciting? Is is the first time we’ve found evidence of water availability on the Red planet? Or is there something even more special about this discovery recently announced by NASA?
Look! We Struck Water!
First things first. NASA has confirmed the presence of flowing water on the surface of the planet Mars.
There was evidence of water on the planet even before this discovery, but the water they found was not like actual water as we think of it; it was either in a frozen state or in some other amalgamated state, which did not present a clear idea of whether there was water on our neighboring planet. However, NASA has recently published images that show how liquid water runs down canyons and crater walls over the summer months on this newly celebrated planet.
What Did They See?
Images were taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera, which is installed on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Upon thoroughly studying these images, researchers noticed dark streaks (called recurring slope linae or RSL) that demonstrated a noticeable pattern. They appeared during warm weather (these streaks appeared when the temperature rose above -23 degrees Celsius), but faded away when temperatures dropped. Further analysis of these streaks demonstrated that these lines are caused by salty liquid water.
The Unanswered Question
The discovery of water on Mars is great, but one question that still confounds researchers is, “Where does the water come from?”
There are some hypotheses about this; porous rocks present beneath the surface of the planet might hold frozen water, which melts and seeps up through the ground when temperature rises. Another explanation is the possibility of highly concentrated saline aquifers that are present beneath the surface. These could also cause water to flow in some areas.
What Does It All Mean?
The discovery of water on Mars opens up new horizons that could potentially point towards a discovery of life on Mars. According to the lead scientist on NASA’s Mars exploration program, Michael Meyer, this discovery is pretty exciting. “We haven’t been able to answer the question, ‘Does life exist beyond Earth?’ But following the water is a critical element of that. We now have, I think, great opportunities in the right locations on Mars to thoroughly investigate that,” he said in an interview following the discovery of water on Mars.
Also, the discovery of water on Mars opens up new options for future missions, where astronauts would be able to obtain water from natural sources on Mars rather than depend on artificial techniques.
Now that we have struck liquid water on Mars, thanks to the efforts of the researchers at NASA involved in the mission, it is quite probable that we might discover life on the planet as well. Wouldn’t that be the discovery of the century!