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University Study of NASA Data Finds Flowing Water On Mars


Researchers at the University of Arizona in Tucson have discovered what they believe to be flowing water near the equator of Mars. How did we miss it until now? The water seems to only flow seasonally.

Alfred McEwan of the University of Arizona in Tucson published these findings in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The abstract of McEwan’s analysis states that, “The presence of liquid water is a requirement of habitability on a planet. Possible indicators of liquid surface water on Mars include intermittent flow-like features observed on sloping terrains.

The researchers said that a pattern of flowing and freezing water seemed to lengthen over time during the warmer seasons, and faded, apparently do to freezing at certain points, during the colder seasons.

The study was based upon data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Originally they had drawn on a system of canyons near the slop lineae in the southern mid-latitudes of Mars in 2011, but this most recent study draws on 12 sites near the equator.

The study was inconclusive as to the origins of the water flow, and concludes that “Although the origin of the recurring slope lineae remains an open question, our observations are consistent with intermittent flow of briny water. Such an origin suggests surprisingly abundant liquid water in some near-surface equatorial regions of Mars.”

McEwan suspects the source is subterranean. For this reason, he speculates that we have it all wrong in looking for life on the surface of the red planet. “The subsurface is probably the best place to find present-day life if it exists at all because it is protected from the radiation and temperature extremes,” he said.

The image below shows McEwan’s map, from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, of the confirmed locations of dark streaks, or recurring slope lineae.


McEwan, as well as Josh Rummel, the head of the Committee on Space Research’s, COSPAR, panel on planetary protection, are due to present the report to COSPAR next August.

(Article by James Achisa; images via Nature Geoscience, Alfred McEwen et al.)

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