For decades, people have questioned whether Mars can support life. Now, new research seems to confirm the existence of liquid water on the neighboring planet’s surface.
“The discovery we’re going to talk about today is exciting because it suggests that it would be possible for there to be life on Mars today,” John Grunsfeld, an astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington said in a press release on Sept. 28.
The findings come from discoveries found on the planet’s surface, referred to as recurring slope lineae (RSL) – dark streaks formed in late spring, that enlarge in summer and disappear by fall. These patterns were first discovered in 2010. Scientists are still unable to explain the growing and shrinking of the streaks.
According to Nature Geoscience, scientists recounted evidence of hydrated salts on the slopes of the RSL in four areas. Salt deposits were only found where the RSL streaks were biggest, confirming the culprit of the molecular water observed was connected to the RSL streaks themselves, or to its development.
Water is an essential element for the creation and sustainability of life. These findings could lead to potential habitable conditions on Mars earthlings have only fantasized about.
“We’ve known for a while that water is there, but we always assumed it was frozen,” Madison Smith, a third-year astronomy teaching assistant (TA), said. “Now that we know there’s liquid water, there’s a much higher chance that there’s life as well.”
The announcement of water on Mars came just a few days before the release of “The Martian,” a movie starring Matt Damon, and based off the novel by Andy Weir. The film depicts an astronaut who is left for dead during a mission to Mars, as he tries to survive on the planet. The movie and major findings go hand-in-hand as NASA begins to focus on its “Journey to Mars” plan, intended to launch humans to the red planet by 2030.
“There’s been a lot of attention to exoplanets in the news recently, as they’re looking for life in other solar systems,” Smith said. “But hearing that we might not have to look that far away from home is one of the coolest discoveries in astronomy in the past several years.”
Information for this article was taken from newsweek.com, nytimes.com and nature.com.