NASA may have found water on Mars

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA Spacecraft Data Suggest Water Flowing On Mars

Oblique View of Warm Season Flows in Newton Crater

Oblique View of Warm Season Flows in Newton Crater An image combining orbital imagery with 3-D modeling shows flows that appear in spring and summer on a slope inside Mars' Newton crater. Click for larger image

PASADENA, Calif. — Observations from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed possible flowing water during the warmest months on Mars.

“NASA’s Mars Exploration Program keeps bringing us closer to determining whether the Red Planet could harbor life in some form,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, “and it reaffirms Mars as an important future destination for human exploration.”

Dark, finger-like features appear and extend down some Martian slopes during late spring through summer, fade in winter, and return during the next spring. Repeated observations have tracked the seasonal changes in these recurring features on several steep slopes in the middle latitudes of Mars’ southern hemisphere.

“The best explanation for these observations so far is the flow of briny water,” said Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson. McEwen is the principal investigator for the orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) and lead author of a report about the recurring flows published in Thursday’s edition of the journal Science.

Some aspects of the observations still puzzle researchers, but flows of liquid brine fit the features’ characteristics better than alternate hypotheses. Saltiness lowers the freezing temperature of water. Sites with active flows get warm enough, even in the shallow subsurface, to sustain liquid water that is about as salty as Earth’s oceans, while pure water would freeze at the observed temperatures.

“These dark lineations are different from other types of features on Martian slopes,” said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Scientist Richard Zurek of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “Repeated observations show they extend ever farther downhill with time during the warm season.”

The features imaged are only about 0.5 to 5 yards or meters wide, with lengths up to hundreds of yards. The width is much narrower than previously reported gullies on Martian slopes. However, some of those locations display more than 1,000 individual flows. Also, while gullies are abundant on cold, pole-facing slopes, these dark flows are on warmer, equator-facing slopes.

The images show flows lengthen and darken on rocky equator-facing slopes from late spring to early fall. The seasonality, latitude distribution and brightness changes suggest a volatile material is involved, but there is no direct detection of one. The settings are too warm for carbon-dioxide frost and, at some sites, too cold for pure water. This suggests the action of brines, which have lower freezing points. Salt deposits over much of Mars indicate brines were abundant in Mars’ past. These recent observations suggest brines still may form near the surface today in limited times and places.

When researchers checked flow-marked slopes with the orbiter’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM), no sign of water appeared. The features may quickly dry on the surface or could be shallow subsurface flows.

“The flows are not dark because of being wet,” McEwen said. “They are dark for some other reason.”

A flow initiated by briny water could rearrange grains or change surface roughness in a way that darkens the appearance. How the features brighten again when temperatures drop is harder to explain.

“It’s a mystery now, but I think it’s a solvable mystery with further observations and laboratory experiments,” McEwen said.

These results are the closest scientists have come to finding evidence of liquid water on the planet’s surface today. Frozen water, however has been detected near the surface in many middle to high-latitude regions. Fresh-looking gullies suggest slope movements in geologically recent times, perhaps aided by water. Purported droplets of brine also appeared on struts of the Phoenix Mars Lander. If further study of the recurring dark flows supports evidence of brines, these could be the first known Martian locations with liquid water.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory operates HiRISE. The camera was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo. Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., provided and operates CRISM. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

 

More images here

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51 Responses to NASA may have found water on Mars

  1. Jason Bair says:

    Well, lets get up there and take a look!

  2. Sounds like MSL needs a better landing site than flat, windy Gale Crater.

  3. ew_3 says:

    Perhaps Percival Lowell was right about the canals after all.

  4. DLBrown says:

    We’ve discovered water on Mars and it’s worse than we previously thought…../sarc.

  5. polistra says:

    Martian version of algae or slime mold?

  6. RACookPE1978 says:

    I have long suspected that the “canals” on Mars were really “seen” … but what was seen were the long “dust storms” blowing about, plus actual geometric features (like mountain ranges/mountainous canyons) being covered and uncovered irregularly.

    Mixed with a very, very strong “confirmation bias” that the observers desperately “wanted to see” regular features to justify their earlier claims about dimly seen lines and smudges, so these desires were “re-drawn” into “straight-edged” features and colored in sketches for the writer’s textbooks and articles.

    Sound familiar?

  7. Scott Covert says:

    I want all my energy related taxes redirected to sending Al Gore to Mars.

    One small step for Gore, one giant leap for Manbearpig.

  8. Bill Thomson says:

    My understanding is that water does not have a liquid state below about 0.6 (earth) atmospheres of pressure. The atmospheric pressure on Mars is much less than this. In light of this, could someone please explain how there can be liquid water on Mars?

  9. Hoser says:

    The Phoenix lander found water ice mixed with soil. We know water is present on Mars. ​http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/phoen​ix/main/index.html

    However, it is also possible that the lines are produced by rockfalls of older strata that subsequently oxidize and turn the normal rust color we see on the surface of Mars.

    http://curator.jsc.nasa.gov/antmet/ma​rsmets/index.cfm

    It may be possible to distinguish between mechanism by the rate of color change. That is, if the dark color disappears faster than the rocks could oxide, then the cause is more likely due to the presence of water. However, it seems that the temperature (210 K) and atmospheric pressure (~600 Pa) on Mars would make the presence of liquid water on the surface very unlikely.

    http://ergodic.ugr.es/termo/lecciones​/water1.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars

    Perhaps water binds the older strata together, it falls as ice sublimes, finally the dark fallen iron-rich material (e.g. basalt) oxidizes and turns red.

  10. fp says:

    “My understanding is that water does not have a liquid state below about 0.6 (earth) atmospheres of pressure.”

    I think you mean .6 kPa, or .006 atm. http://www.sv.vt.edu/classes/MSE2094_NoteBook/96ClassProj/pics/941.jpg

  11. Bruce says:

    I was sure CO2 caused droughts!

  12. Bill Thomson says:

    Ok, To answer my own question above, it seems that the triple point of water is at 0.006 atmospheres, not 0.6, so maybe there is enough atmospheric presure on Mars.

  13. Hejlesen says:

    @Bill Thomson: Water can exist at down to 600 Pa (0,006% of earth), so it is just possible for it to be at Mars which has a pressure around 700-900 Pa.

    Exciting news if this turns out to be right, but at this point we’re pretty much just guessing.

  14. Joshua Corning says:

    ““The flows are not dark because of being wet,” McEwen said. “They are dark for some other reason.”

    How the features brighten again when temperatures drop is harder to explain.”

    Sooo…

    The angle of the sun changes during the different seasons….
    I think what we have here is not salty water but in fact only a change in the lighting.

    look at this animation and tell me different:

    http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mro/multimedia/images/?ImageID=3585&NewsInfo=59C884BFF2B8E0EFC8DB07B94F94BA55AC4A8F9603007CD8CA4D50EBAAD2D883DF99DED8EDD0DF46C0599EE2C2EF940CC2CED306DC461CEBDB1FCDC80B64D73904CAEF4AC312CFCADF0D13D2CED22FC5B6C7ADF9CDE1D1DED5CF8ACA150D4C12D642D29B4C46266CC351DB91C41CA9845C

  15. Maylin says:

    Wow! How cool is that! Never thought it to be possible.

  16. Tom T says:

    Now can they find it in Texas?

  17. Nuke says:

    If only they found some ‘persecuted’ religious group there, we could launch a mission to Mars immediately so NASA could help them to feel better about themselves and us.

  18. Kev-in-UK says:

    As a geologist, my personal guess would be some form of solifluction, rather than straghtforward liquid flow.

  19. DLBrown says:

    “Nuke says:
    August 4, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    If only they found some ‘persecuted’ religious group there, we could launch a mission to Mars immediately so NASA could help them to feel better about themselves and us.”

    That group would be the ‘warmists’……LOL!

  20. If they are brine flows, they would remove dust accumulations, showing the darker rock beneath, then throughout the year, the dustfall would lighten the features, until ‘washed clean’ again.

    Yes, it seems that the ‘canalli ‘ (channels) were a combination of known Martian features and the human eye/brain combo seeing lines where there weren’t really straight lines.

  21. Mike Lorrey says:

    It becomes more evident every day that Mars is a very good candidate for terraforming relatively easily. There’s plenty of water there, and much more solid CO2 in southern glaciers than previously expected. If, for instance, we built a CFC plant large enough to replicate the previous global production of CFC’s on Earth before they were banned, in 30 years time this would warm Mars enough to cause CO2 outgassing to increase atmospheric pressure to the level at Mount Everest, and temperatures to increase to allow liquid water over more than 60% of mars surface year round. At which point it clearly requires only introduction of plant life to convert CO2 to O2 to complete terraforming.

  22. Slabadang says:

    Extra Extra read (listen ) all about it!!

    The real Obi Wan Kanobi presents him self. His name is Murry Salby. By meashurement he proves that human CO2 can impossibly drive climate. His article has been in preparation and mental training for two years. He swings his scientific laser sword and cuts the empires connection with the dark force. Listen to the final victory!!!

    http://www.thesydneyinstitute.com.au/podcast/global-emission-of-carbon-dioxide-the-contribution-from-natural-sources/

    All sceptic jedi knights have contributed to the final victory. Anthony Watts Spencer Pielke McIntyre Lindzen Carter Singer Ball Shapiro Monckton McItrick Delingpole Braswell everyone fighting the empire must have a big monument with thier names inscripted. Thank you alla guys!!

    Its ower the empire is finally defeated !!!! Yeeeeeeeees!

  23. rbateman says:

    In Percival Lowell’s defense, he was the only one with optics big enough and good enough in a place where seeing might be good enough to resolve the ‘canals’ on Mars at the time. The other large Clark refractor was on the East Coast with bad seeing and crummy weather.

  24. Armagh Observatory says:

    Im sure Ive seen a Martian Nasa photo showing a geyser erupting, with the run off water producing clearly recognisable patterns in the surrounding area.

  25. 1DandyTroll says:

    Quickly, we might possibly have won, err, found, water, please send more money, double time quick like.

    If we all were walking in the desert in high summer, would we actually stand for may and might, could and possibly, have, found water? :p

  26. pat says:

    Armagh
    I believe those were CO2 geysers although there may be some H2O ice in the ejecta. On the other hand there are water geysers on Enceladus.

  27. Auto Blog says:

    Wonder if this whole Mars business is just another distraction by politicians during these uncertain times!

  28. Kev-in-UK says:

    Armagh Observatory says:
    August 4, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    has this image been published? – and how do you know it was water? – just asking!

  29. Rosy's dad says:

    Wishful thinking.

  30. Myrrh says:

    9.Hoser says:
    August 4, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    However, it is also possible that the lines are produced by rockfalls of older strata that subsequently oxidize and turn the normal rust color we see on the surface of Mars.
    http://curator.jsc.nasa.gov/antmet/ma​rsmets/index.cfm

    The link doesn’t work, says page is unavailable. However, if you put antmet marsmets into the search box the first result still links to the page.

  31. Brothersmartmouth says:

    It looks like there is a thin layer of darker rock just beneath the surface. Possibly volcanic in origin. This rock could have a different fracturing reaction to temperature changes (more in this case, assumed). This would mean more landslides from that layer during the warmest times. You can see that here wear softer rocks erode faster than harder rocks.
    You would think that briny water would leave salty deposits when it dried up. White crystals perhaps. There doesn’t seem to be any sign of that, they would have mentioned it if there was.
    To Bill, Those numbers are for pure water, salts might change those properties.

  32. Smokey says:

    Rosy’s dad says:

    “Wishful thinking.”

    Not true! We have actual proof.

  33. Richard S Courtney says:

    Water? Perhaps. Who knows?

    Maybe the findings of the Viking missions need to be revisited.

    One test – but not the other – of the Labeled Release experiment on the Viking landers (1976) provided indications which before the missions were thought to be indicative of metabolism by microorganisms. Despite this finding, the absence of detected organic compounds was assumed to rule out the possibility of organic life.

    Later, the Phoenix lander (2008) did find organic compounds in Martian soil.

    Now, the above report says;
    “Observations from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed possible flowing water during the warmest months on Mars.”

    Hmmmm. Interesting. I shall keep following any developments.

    Richard

  34. Brothersmartmouth says:

    I the slides were wet, they would have a shine.
    Maybe it’s a case of “hide the shine?”

  35. ZT says:

    NASA may have found something interesting day is August 4th every year. (Hallmark have the card).

  36. MarkB says:

    Explain how NASA continues to ‘find’ water on Mars over and over again. Doesn’t finding once preclude finding again?

  37. u.k.(us) says:

    “If further study of the recurring dark flows supports evidence of brines, these could be the first known Martian locations with liquid water.”
    ==========
    Damn, guys and gals, it is just a theory.
    We’ll all be be dead before a sample is returned.
    (or will we? )

  38. Chris Smith says:

    “may have”… boring. They should tell us when they “HAVE” found water.

    This is just the usual obligatory noise they have to make in order to maintain the idiot public’s interest in and government funding of their ridiculous projects.

  39. Paul Westhaver says:

    I thought water on Mars was old news? Flowing water? There had to have been in the past so it is only a matter of temp and salinity that it flows now.

    No big wow to me. Mars is ….. well it just bores me to death. Our oceans are way cool.
    no hype = no bucks. No bucks… no Buck Rogers..
    NASA is wearing thin.

  40. Paul Westhaver says:

    This reminds me of the shameless self promotion Galileo engaged in when he copied Hans Lippershey’s telescope patent application, and restated Copernicus’ heliocentric theory as his own (he was scamming cash from the Medicis)…or Al Gore’s claim of inventing the internet.

    Let me try… I have discovered DNA! gimme money!

    I hear crickets.

  41. Edim says:

    These flows of liquid whatever were noticed long time ago in pictures of Mars. The mainstream ignored it like they ignore every interesting observation.

    http://www.msss.com/mars_images/moc/extended_may2001/change/index.html

  42. Kelvin Vaughan says:

    Mike Lorrey says:
    August 4, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    It becomes more evident every day that Mars is a very good candidate for terraforming relatively easily. There’s plenty of water there, and much more solid CO2 in southern glaciers than previously expected. If, for instance, we built a CFC plant large enough to replicate the previous global production of CFC’s on Earth before they were banned, in 30 years time this would warm Mars enough to cause CO2 outgassing to increase atmospheric pressure to the level at Mount Everest, and temperatures to increase to allow liquid water over more than 60% of mars surface year round. At which point it clearly requires only introduction of plant life to convert CO2 to O2 to complete terraforming.

    You do not need CFCs to warm the atmosphere of Mars it’s already got runaway global warming there with 95.32% of the atmosphere Carbon Dioxide.

  43. John Silver says:

    It SEEMS that SOMETHING is moving.
    That’s all that can be said; the rest is fiction.

  44. Bloke down the pub says:

    Experiments have been done in Mars-like environments on Earth with rover vehicles . In most cases they failed to find target objects the size of a tv. Mars will keep it’s secrets until we’re prepared to send people there to take a proper look.

  45. Andrew Zalotocky says:

    There’s an interesting theory that Percival Lowell saw “canals” on Mars and “spokes” in the clouds of Venus because his unusual observing technique caused his telescope to function like an ophthalmoscope, so he was actually seeing the shadows of the blood vessels in his eye.

  46. Coulda’, woulda’, shoulda’…… Guess we’ll be learning more on this topic from the Russians.

  47. J.Hansford says:

    There would be HUGE deposits of salt if brine was constantly leaking, evaporating and depositing salt and silt over millions of years in an environment with few erosion processes other than wind.

    … But if they wanna send someone to go look….. er… I’m available. ;-)

  48. Dave Worley says:

    This is great news about the briney water. I was not going to move there unless I could also build a pool. Now I won’t need to haul in chlorine.

  49. Edim says:

    I am convinced that these dark streaks are flows of a liquid. Water or brine or something else (hydrocarbons?), I don’t know. NASA should have sent the rovers to the flows. That would be something. NASA is a bunch of bureaucrats.

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