This morning we woke to an exciting announcement from NASA – liquid water flows on Mars. Dark streaks seen on images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have been analysed and the presence of liquid, briny, water has been detected.

The dark streaks (seen in the image below) were first spotted by Lujendra Ojha in 2010 while he was still studying at the University of Arizona. He theorised that it was flowing water that created the streak pattern.

Using an imaging spectrometer called Crism, the MRO looked at four locations where the dark streaks, called “Recurring Slope Linae” (RSL) were present. Salt minerals were detected in these locations, minerals that precipitate from briny water. The RSL seem to darken and flow down the steep slopes during the warm Mars seasons, then fade when it gets cooler. Some scientists are saying that these sites also offer further understanding of the subsurface of Mars and may help identify places where microbial life could be present on Mars.

Michael Meyer, NASA lead scientist says, “There is liquid water today on the surface of Mars. Because of this, we suspect that it is at least possible to have a habitable environment today.”

While it has been known for some time that water in the form of ice exists under the surface this is a thrilling next step in understanding the Red Planet.

References and further information:

NASA – NASA Confirms Evidence that Liquid Water Flows on Today’s Mars

BBC – Martian salt streaks ‘painted by liquid water’

CNN – Liquid water exists on Mars, boosting hopes for life there, NASA says – Salty water flows on Mars today, boosting odds for life – Mars’ Mysterious Dark Streaks Spur Exploration Debate

NPR – Scientists Confirm There’s Water in the Dark Streaks on Mars