Flowing liquid water has been found on mars, confirming long-standing speculation regarding some anomalous features imaged by orbiting space probes — and further increases the chances of finding living organisms on the Red Planet.
In an announcement made by NASA on Sept. 28, they revealed the findings of a study into images of dark streaks on the slopes of some Martian hillsides during periods where the temperature rises above -23ºC during the summer season, dubbed "recurring slope lineae", that were speculated to be flowing water. While evidence has been found for the presence of ancient Martian oceans, this is the first evidence of present-day water.
Using readings from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a team from Georgia Institute of Technology have confirmed that the streaks exhibit the spectrographic signature for salty water are occurring in the slope lineae, but not in the surrounding soil, indicating that liquid water is indeed slowing on the present-day Martian surface. "These results strongly support the hypothesis that seasonal warm slopes are forming liquid water on contemporary Mars," according to the study paper, authored by team lead and PhD candidate Lujendra Ojha, who is also a death metal guitarist of some note.
The source of the water is still unknown: it could be coming from deeper in the Martian soil, or it could be drawn out of the air by the perchlorate salts involved, until enough has been absorbed for them to become liquid. Regardless, this discovery further opens up the possibility of living organisms currently existing on Mars. "It suggests that it would be possible for life to be on Mars today," remarked John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administration for science, during the press conference.
According to NASA’s Jim Green: “Mars is not the dry, arid planet that we thought of in the past. Liquid water has been found on Mars.”