For years, NASA scientists had pondered over the mysterious dark streaks linings over the Martian surface that appeared to change in size over time, growing longer during Mars’ warm summer months and shrinking during colder seasons.
All that changed Monday when the NASA team announced that these dark, mysterious features were, indeed, flowing water.
What ultimately convinced the team that it was water, instead of another form of liquid unique to the red planet, was when they used instruments onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a satellite in orbit around the Red Planet.
MRO has an instrument called a spectrometer, which scans the Martian surface and identifies the chemical makeup of what’s down there. From these scans, the team identified hydrated salts flowing within the dark streaks.
NASA explained in a press release that “the importance of these salts is that they would lower the freezing point of a liquid brine, just as salt on roads here on Earth causes ice and snow to melt more rapidly.”
This means that frozen salt water could thaw into a liquid at lower temperatures, which is important since the hottest days on Mars only reach about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Scientists don’t know yet where this water is coming from and how much of it exists.
“Now that we know what we’re looking for, we can begin to better search and look and see if there is an aquifer network supplying these, but that is actually the next step,” Michael Meyer, the lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters, said during the media briefing.
NASA revealed more details in the briefing below:
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H/T: Business Insider