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Water Flows on Mars

September 29, 2015

After years of hints, NASA finally calls it: Water flows on Mars. Not anything like Niagra Falls, but enough to see signs of channels forming. In the past, evidence had accumulated for water channels a billion years ago. But now, we see signs of water “days” ago.

The time-lapse animation of Palikir Crater, above, shows streaks that lengthen during the Martian summer. The streaks fade as it gets colder; presumably the water sublimes or freezes.

Where does the water come from? Calculation show that it can’t come from the Martian atmosphere, which is too thin to precipitate more than a few microns deep. Does it come out of the ground?

If water does come up and flow, even brine (salty water), would it contain life?
We already have evidence that life existed on Mars three billion years ago, more or less. The fossil mats that Nora Noffke analyzed look just as convincing as similar fossils on Earth. Unless some catastrophe sterilized the entire planet, one would think living descendants remain today.

 

 

3 Comments
  1. Alex Tolley permalink
    September 29, 2015 2:55 pm

    Has anyone looked at whether bacteria can live in (or be evolved to live in) the perchlorate and chlorate brines of these Martian aquifers?

    • September 29, 2015 11:00 pm

      There are plenty of Earth microbes that grow in concentrated NaCl–including polar species at -20C. And bacteria that respire (breathe) perchlorate or chlorate are found in wastewater.

  2. September 29, 2015 3:40 pm

    Great–now all those horror stories about bringing a deadly microbe back from Mars have a grounding in real science. Still, free fuel, air, and drinking water (after a little electrohydrolysis)–can’t complain…

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