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Mars Could Have Water on its Surface Right Now, New Study Finds Evidence of Saltwater Flow


A new study may help scientists starting using present tense language when talking about water on Mars as it could be "flowing" on the Red Planet's surface, especially during warm seasons.

According to CNN, Lujendra Ojha and his colleagues at the Georgia Institute of Technology published their work in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The team had previously published a study in the journal Science on the possibility of saltwater flow on the Martian surface.

For both studies, the team used images from the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

"In HiRISE images, we see them forming, elongating and then fading over time," Ojha told CNN. "That's why they're called seasonal - they form and flow when the temperature is right."

Ojha was an undergraduate at the University of Arizona in Tucson when he and his team spotted an interesting Martian crater. While studying further some of those irregularities, months of research determined long and thin shapes in the crater could be saltwater.

"Something in these areas is actually causing the spectroscopic signature to fluctuate as well," Ojha said.

According to the study, water will be present on Mars' surface for the equivalent of two months on Earth. Since enrolling at Georgia Tech for graduate school, assistant professor James Wray helped Ojha examine the 13 sites that most resembled the slopes of saltwater.

"NASA likes to 'follow the water' in exploring the Red Planet, so we'd like to know in advance when and where it will appear," Wray said in a NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) news release. "Recurring slope lineae (RSL) have rekindled our hope of accessing modern water, but forecasting wet conditions remains a challenge."

The study researchers need to do more to confirm their findings, but so far, their work suggests water would exist close to the surface and would also be salty. Obviously, salt water cannot be consumed by humans and the water may also contain ferric sulfate, a mineral known to be common on Mars.

"Only 13 of the 200 locations had confirmed RSL," Ojha said in the release. "The fact that RSL occur in a few sites and not others indicates additional unknown factors such as availability of water or salts may play a crucial role in RSL formation."

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