PASADENA, CALIF. (CBS Tampa) – NASA scientists say there could be evidence that water flows on Mars, even today.
The tantalizing clues come from a series of lines and streaks that appear on the Martian surface during its warmer summer months.
Called recurring slope lineae (RSL), they show up on the slopes of craters and other geographic formations when the mercury rises.
“We still don’t have a smoking gun for existence of water in RSL, although we’re not sure how this process would take place without water,” said Lujendra Ojha, a graduate student at Georgia Tech and the author of two recent RSL studies.
Ojha and his team examined images of 13 RSL sites taken with specialized instruments on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
They saw high concentrations of iron minerals at those sites.
The scientists speculate that water contains a sort of iron and salt anti-freeze that allows it to flow even in the frigid cold of Mars.
The liquid water would then leave behind traces of iron.
“Just like the RSL themselves, the strength of the spectral signatures varies according to the seasons,” Ojha said. “They’re stronger when it’s warmer and less significant when it’s colder.”
Scientists will continue to examine these sites very closely.
The discovery of liquid water, even briny water, on the Red Planet would be extraordinary and would have repercussions for possible life and colonization.
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