At a press conference today, NASA will announce one of the biggest scientific discoveries of our lifetime, the presence of liquid, flowing water on Mars.
You know, like Earth.
The discovery of flowing water comes in the form of ‘recurring slope lineae’ (RSL), which are essentially the residue left when water moves down a slope. Here’s the techy speaky from Motherboard (citing a paper released today in Nature Geoscience):
These streaks were first discovered in 2011 and researchers have long hypothesized that they could be caused by the flow of liquid water formed by salts soaking up the water vapor in the atmosphere (or melting the frozen surface water) and becoming liquid brine.
NASA researchers used the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) to measure the areas where the RSL appear and look for hydrated salts (salts that have absorbed water)… In every site they looked at, the RSL slopes also contained hydrated perchlorate salts (salts formed from perchlorate acid), “supporting a genetic connection between the two,” the paper reads.
Meaning they could only be left from water. The streaks appear and disappears as the seasons on the planet change. In the warmer months (waterside summer home on Mars anyone?), water is now believed to flow on the planet’s surface.
Prior to today’s announcement, it was thought the Martian atmosphere couldn’t sustain liquid water (there is plenty of water on Mars, in the form of its polar ice caps).
Where is this specific water coming form? From the Verge:
As for where this water is coming from, [study author Lujendra] Ojha noted there are three possible sources. The perchlorates may be pulling water out of the Martian atmosphere when the air grows particularly humid. The water also may be from a subsurface reservoir of ice that turns into liquid when it comes in contact with the salts. There’s even the possibility of an aquifer that is generating the water needed for the briny flows.
Who wants to head to Mars and have a drink? (Please note: Drinking this water would probably kill you.)