Evidence of liquid water found on Mars

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Evidence of liquid water found on Mars
water can exist as a liquid
near the Martian surface.
Science is
the beginning of life and life is science, this has been the propelling factor in
series. Research recently carried out by Nasa’s Curiosity rover,  has found that water can exist as a liquid
near the Martian surface.

Mars should
be probably too cold to sustain liquid water at the surface, but salts in the
soil lower its freezing point – allowing briny films to form.
The results comfortably
gave credibility to a theory that dark bands or strikes seen on features such
as crater walls could be formed by flowing water.
These are hierarchically
results are published in
the journal Nature Geoscience
.
Scientists
think thin films of water form when salts in the soil, called perchlorates,
absorb water vapour from the atmosphere. 
perchlorates, absorb water vapour from the atmosphere.
Perchlorates,
absorb water vapour from the atmosphere.
The
temperature of these liquid films is about -70C – too cold to support any of
the microbial life forms that we know about.
Forming in
the top 15cm of the Martian soil, the brines would also be exposed to high
levels of cosmic radiation – another challenge to life.
But it’s
still possible that organisms could exist somewhere beneath the surface on
Mars, where circumstances are more favorable and promising.
Evaporation cycle
The
researchers sketched together different lines of indication and evidence collected
over a Martian year, and from dissimilar instruments carried by the Curiosity
rover.
The Rover
Environmental Monitoring System (REMS) – fundamentally the vehicle’s weather
station – measured the relative humidity and temperature at the rover’s landing
site of Gale Crater.
Scientists
were also able to estimate the subsurface water content using data from an
instrument called Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN). These data were consistent
with water in the soil being bound to perchlorates.
Finally, the
Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument gave the researchers the content of
water vapour in the atmosphere.

The results show conditions were right for the brines to form during winter
nights at the Martian equator, where Curiosity landed. But the liquid
evaporates during the Martian day when temperatures rise.

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Javier Martin-Torres, a co-investigator on the Curiosity mission and lead
scientist on REMS, told BBC News the detection was indirect but convincing:
“What we see are the conditions for the formation of brines on the
surface. It’s similar to when people were discovering the first exoplanets.

“They were not seeing the planets, but they were able to see the
gravitational effects on the star.

“These perchlorate salts have a property called deliquescence. They
take the water vapour from the atmosphere and absorb it to produce the brines.”

He added: “We see a daily water cycle – which is very important. This
cycle is maintained by the brine. On Earth we have an exchange between the
atmosphere and the ground through rain. But we don’t have this on Mars.”

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While one might think that liquid water would form at warmer temperatures,
the formation of brines is the result of an interaction between temperature and
atmospheric pressure. It happens that the sweet spot for formation of these
liquid films is at colder temperatures.

The fact that the scientists see evidence for these brines at the Martian
equator – where conditions are least favourable – means that they might be more
persistent at higher latitudes, in areas where the humidity is higher and
temperatures are lower.

In these regions they might even be present all year round.

Dark streaks on slopes seen by orbiting spacecraft have long been thought to
be the product of running water seeping from the Martian soil. But this
interpretation has been contested.

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“It’s speculation at this point… but these observations at least
support or go in this direction,” said Dr Martin-Torres.

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