By William Cameron
New data suggests the red planet may be more blue than previously confirmed.
In an announcement Monday morning, NASA issued an official release confirming “evidence that liquid water flows on today’s Mars.”
The claim accompanied fresh findings supporting a theory that liquid water plays an active role in shaping the modern surface of Mars.
Researchers came to the conclusion after observing changes in data collected from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
In the press release, a false color image of the planet’s surface shows dark streaks, what NASA refers to as “recurring slope lineae,” streaming down the sides of dunes and craters.
The dark-colored features exhibit a dynamic presence. High-resolution imaging reveals changes in the darkness and width of the RSL that correspond to the changes of the planet’s seasons.
According to the release, researchers detected the spectral signature of hydrated salts in the darkened lines using MRO’s onboard spectrometer, the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars.
Spectroscopy measures the intensity of light reflected off an object. Variance in wavelength intensity is used to identify the relative composition of the object.
CRISM only identified the signature during warm periods, when the RSL occur most extensively.
The release likens the perchlorate salts detected in the RSL to the salt used on Earth to melt icy roads. Salt concentrations lower the freezing point of water, allowing ice to melt at a cooler temperature.
Researchers deduce that as the planet experiences warmer temperatures, the frozen brine liquefies, flowing down the sloping surfaces. This physical change offers a plausible explanation for the dark streak phenomenon.
While NASA’s website provides some of the compiled digital images referenced in the study, they make no mention of the discovery’s immediate effect on current missions.
As Akshat Rathi points out with an article in digital news outlet Quartz.com, a 1967 United Nations treaty governing the use of Outer Space may impede NASA’s ability to gather physical samples proving the claim at this time.
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