NASA announces evidence of flowing water "creeping down slopes" on Mars

The space agency spent the entire weekend teasing the scientific community -- but it was worth the wait


Scott Eric Kaufman
September 28, 2015 7:22PM (UTC)

After a weekend of speculation, scientists were finally treated to NASA's big reveal: there is flowing liquid water on the surface of Mars.

According to researchers, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter identified sloped streaks on the Martian surface that contain minerals called "perchlorates," which are able to reduce the temperature at which water freezes up to -94 Fahrenheit. Those streaks only exist during the planet's cold season, in which temperatures routinely dip below that, and disappear during the warm season, when temperatures climb above -10 Fahrenheit.

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In an article to be published in a forthcoming issue of "Nature Geoscience," a team of NASA researchers argues that the reason behind the seasonal appearance of these streaks is that, in the warmer season, the perchlorate-rich water "creep[s] down Martian slopes," in the words of team-member Lujendra Ojha.

"Something is hydrating these salts, and it appears to be these streaks that come and go with the seasons," she said in a statement. "This means the water on Mars is briny, rather than pure. It makes sense, because salts lower the freezing point of water. Even if RSL are slightly underground, where it's even colder than the surface temperature, the salts would keep the water in a liquid form and allow it to creep down Martian slopes."


Scott Eric Kaufman

Scott Eric Kaufman is an assistant editor at Salon. He taught at a university, but then thought better of it. Follow him at @scottekaufman or email him at skaufman@salon.com.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Life On Mars Mars Nasa Water On Mars

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