Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Groundbreaking NASA Announcement: Evidence of Liquid Water on Mars

Science
Groundbreaking NASA Announcement: Evidence of Liquid Water on Mars

In a major scientific announcement, NASA has found evidence of liquid water on present-day Mars.

"Mars is not the dry, arid planet that we thought of in the past," said Jim Green, NASA Planetary Science Director, in a press conference. "Under certain circumstances, liquid water has been found on Mars."

For about a week, NASA kept this "major Mars mystery" a secret from the public. And today, millions of viewers tuned into the space agency's live-streamed announcement, and even fueling speculation that there could be (or was) life on the Red Planet, as water is essential to life.

“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,” Grunsfeld continued.

The findings come from an imaging spectrometer on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which has been roving the planet since 2006.

Scientists have long theorized that water, in the form of trapped ice, was already present on the Martian planet. "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," the New York Times reported.

But with today's announcement, it now appears that the dark streaks seen on the planet are actually patches of freshly hydrated salts, which are formed by flowing water that has evaporated off the Martian surface.

“That’s a direct detection of water in the form of hydration of salts," Dr. Alfred S. McEwen, a professor of planetary geology at the University of Arizona and the principal investigator of images from the MRO, told the New York Times. “There pretty much has to have been liquid water recently present to produce the hydrated salt.”

NASA explained that the darkish streaks appear to "ebb and flow over time," adding that they darken and "appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler seasons."

"They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times," NASA said.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Stunning NASA Photos Reveal Sun, Moon and Pluto Up Close

Watch NASA Explain Why We Should All Be Worried About Greenland’s Melting Ice Sheet

Move Over Stonehenge, Scientists Just Discovered ‘Super-Henge’ Which Is 12 Times Bigger

Susanna Pershern / Submerged Resources Center/ National Park Service / public domain

By Melissa Gaskill

Two decades ago scientists and volunteers along the Virginia coast started tossing seagrass seeds into barren seaside lagoons. Disease and an intense hurricane had wiped out the plants in the 1930s, and no nearby meadows could serve as a naturally dispersing source of seeds to bring them back.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Fridays for Future climate activists demonstrate in Bonn, Germany on Sept. 25, 2020. Roberto Pfeil / picture alliance via Getty Images

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere hit a new record in 2019 and have continued climbing this year, despite lockdowns and other measures to curb the pandemic, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Monday, citing preliminary data.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The Argentine black-and-white tegu is an invasive species that can reach four-feet long. Mark Newman / Getty Images

These black-and-white lizards could be the punchline of a joke, except the situation is no laughing matter.

Read More Show Less
Smoke covers the skies over downtown Portland, Oregon, on Sept. 9, 2020. Diego Diaz / Icon Sportswire

By Isabella Garcia

September in Portland, Oregon, usually brings a slight chill to the air and an orange tinge to the leaves. This year, it brought smoke so thick it burned your throat and made your eyes strain to see more than 20 feet in front of you.

Read More Show Less
A rare rusty-spotted cat is spotted in the wild in 2015. David V. Raju / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 4.0

Misunderstanding the needs of how to protect three rare cat species in Southeast Asia may be a driving factor in their extinction, according to a recent study.

Read More Show Less