The Water of Mars?

3D model Mars

3D image from NASA depicting spring and summer on a slope inside Mars’ Newton crater.

We’ve heard endlessly about the possibility that Mars, the far away red planet, has water, but recently we’ve gotten closer to a confirmation. Last week NASA revealed that its “Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter [has] revealed possible flowing water during the warmest months on Mars.” And, according to an article published in the New York Times, scientists note that “shifting dark streaks on the surface of Mars are signs that water is flowing there today.”

Ice has been plentiful on Mars for quite some time but scientists have been looking for evidence of water because it could lead to the possibility of life outside the scope of Earth. While ice is important, “the recipe for life, at least as we know it, calls for liquid water, carbon-based molecules and a source for energy” and “chemical reactions for life come to a halt when water freezes.”

The data collected by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is being pored over by Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona. McEwen notes that “the best explanation for these observations so far is the flow of briny water. We have this circumstantial evidence for water flowing on Mars. We have no direct detection of water.”

The observations of the data reveal seasonal discrepancies and that

“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.”

While it may be too early to get your hopes up about water or life on Mars, these findings bring us closer than ever to an exciting breakthrough about how we perceive life in the universe.