New findings from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter provides the “strongest evidence” to date that liquid water flows on Mars intermittently, space scientists, including at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said Monday.
Using an imaging spectrometer on the orbiter, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the red planet, according to JPL and NASA. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time. They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, then fade in cooler seasons.
The streaks appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above 10 degrees Fahrenheit and disappear at colder times, according to the space agency.
“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C.
“This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water — albeit briny — is flowing today on the surface of Mars,” he said.
Such a discovery is a major advancement in the exploration of the red planet, providing a hint that planet could have once — or could again — support life.
“It took multiple spacecraft over several years to solve this mystery, and now we know there is liquid water on the surface of this cold, desert planet,” said Michael Meyer, NASA’s lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program. “It seems that the more we study Mars, the more we learn how life could be supported and where there are resources to support life in the future.”
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been circling Mars since 2006.
“The ability of MRO to observe for multiple Mars years with a payload able to see the fine detail of these features has enabled findings such as these: first identifying the puzzling seasonal streaks and now making a big step towards explaining what they are,” said Rich Zurek, MRO project scientist at JPL.
—City News Service
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