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Mars Water Found by Undergraduate?

February 11, 2014

An undergraduate at U. Arizona may have spotted the first signs of flowing water on Mars–Today, not billions of years ago.

The student, Lujendra Ojha, now pursuing graduate work at Georgia Institute of Technology, published a report of dark streaks on a crater that had no known explanation. The streaks appear and disappear seasonally, consistent with water flowing and drying up.

If the water is flowing, it must be very salty, like the high salt waters that support halophilic archaea, microbes on Earth that grow in concentrated salt. You can find haloarchaea in an evaporating pond; as the salt concentrates, the less salt-tolerant microbes fall apart, and their nutrients are consumed by the more tolerant halophiles. Haloarchaea also augment their respiration with photosynthesis; an adaptation used by the space-habitat purple microbes of The Highest FrontierHalophiles are studied by my colleagues Priya and Shiladitya DasSarma as models for extraterrestrial life.

  1. February 11, 2014 10:43 pm

    It it turns out the salt is a perchlorate, it probably won’t be suitable for life. BTW, haven’t we seen signs of gully changes before, which were hypothesized to be either water emerging from subsurface springs, or fresh dust falls?

    We really need to get some more eyes on the ground. (And Curiosity needs to get a move on and start doing some real science pertaining to its primary mission).

  2. February 11, 2014 11:59 pm

    Nice. So, does that kid get extra credit or what?

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