Mars: Nasa images show signs of flowing water

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  1. Mars: Nasa images show signs of flowing waterBy Hamish Pritchard

    Science Reporter

    Scientists see dark 'tendrils', signs of flowing water, emerge from rocky Martian outcrops
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    Striking new images from the mountains of Mars may be the best evidence yet of flowing, liquid water, an essential ingredient for life.

    The findings, reported today in the journal Science, come from a joint US-Swiss study.

    A sequence of images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show many long, dark "tendrils" a few metres wide.

    They emerge between rocky outcrops and flow hundreds of metres down steep slopes towards the plains below.

    They appear on hillsides warmed by the summer sun, flow around obstacles and sometimes split or merge, but when winter returns, the tendrils fade away.

    This suggests that they are made of thawing mud, say the researchers.

    "It's hard to imagine they are formed by anything other than fluid seeping down slopes," said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Scientist Richard Zurek of Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, but they appear when it's still too cold for fresh water.

    Salty water

    "The best explanation we have for these observations so far is flow of briny water, although this study does not prove that," said planetary geologist and lead author Professor Alfred McEwen of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona.

    Saltiness lowers the temperature at which water freezes, and water about as salty as Earth's oceans could exist at these sites in summer.

    "This could be the first flowing water," said Professor McEwen. This has profound implications in the search for extraterrestrial life.

    "Liquid water is absolutely essential for life, and we've found life on Earth in pretty much every moist niche," said Dr Lewis Dartnell, astrobiologist at University College London, who was not involved in the study.

    "So perhaps there could be hardy microbes surviving in these short periods of summer meltwater on the desert surface of Mars."

    This was echoed by an expert on life in extreme environments, Professor Shiladitya DasSarma of the University of Maryland, also not involved in this study: "Their results are consistent with the presence of large and extensive underground salty lakes on Mars."

    "This is an exciting possibility for those of us studying salt-loving (halophilic) micro-organisms here on Earth, since it opens the possibility that these kinds of hearty bugs may also inhabit our neighbouring planet," he said.

    "Halophilic microbes are champions at withstanding the most punishing conditions, complete desiccation and ionising (space) radiation."

    For geologist Joe Levy of Portland State University, a specialist in Antarctic desert ecosystems, who did not contribute to this work, they represent "a truly tantalising astrobiological target".

    These small and mysterious tendrils could then be the best place to look for Martian life. Professor McEwen says that "for present-day life, these are the most accessible sites".

    BBC News - Mars: Nasa images show signs of flowing water
  2. Bah humbug, they'll be telling us Mars has an atmosphere and plants next.

    Edited to add: scientists have been telling us for decades that there was no water on Mars. Optimistic Victorians and baby boomers brought up on 1960s comics knew that they were wrong, howerver.
  3. Cor blimey guvnor, whats the chances of that. A million to one I says, a million to one. Ohh I can see a green tailed comet in the sky, whats all that about then?
  4. That's quite a turn up. I had heard scientists thought there had been water on Mars at some point in the past and therefore some form of life could have been present. With the evidence that is now being presented it seems it won't be pointless to moosy on up to that planet and have a really good look round...

    Bags I a seat on Richard Branson's Virgin Explorer (or whatever it's called).
  5. Als Kandak, no Martian Donkeys
  6. Wordsmith

    Wordsmith LE Book Reviewer

    I've always been very interested in the search for extra terrestrial life. If proven, it would probably be the single most important scientific discovery ever made.

    As best we can estimate, a prerequisite for life is the presence of liquid water - hence the interest in Jupiter's moon Europa.

    If this were genuinely free-flowing water on Mars - and if it were to have simple bacteria associated with it - the odds on life elsewhere in the universe would shoot up dramatically.

  7. Good find. If life is discovered on Mars it will have a massive impact on the probability of other civilisations existing in the Universe. Two planets with life in one solar sytem would imply that there is lots of life out there.

    It would also be interesting to find out about martian equivalent to DNA/RNA etc.
  8. It's out there, I'm certain; but it's a matter of whether we would recognise it if we came across it, and whether, if advanced enough, it would recognise us as life as well.
  9. Well done NASA,,you have now proved that we will definately be able to destroy another planet's ecosphere..........
  10. So, they've discovered that there's flowing water on Mars, but I was wondering if they could adjust one of their telescopes and direct it over the S2 area of Sheffield.

    It's been stop and start for the past two days after some muppet went a bit happy with a jackhammer.
  11. Does that mean NASA is going to lift the hosepipe ban on Mars?
  12. Just imgine, other life forms could be out there, including a more advanced form of life or being.

    We could learn so much from them, well maybe its just the movies, but nothing is impossible right?

  13. That's just typical of you,,,,always on the lookout for some other life form to defile,,,,,May the Ghost's of Mars haunt you forever..........
  14. We humans believe ourselves to be intelligent, yet when evidence is so obvious we deny it. There is or has been life on Mars, there has to be, water is just another proof.

    Our Solar System, SOL, has life all over it, we are just not looking hard enough. Too concerned with our own petty struggles on the rock we live on.

    We need to reach for the stars more.