Everyone has known for quite a long time that solid water – ice – forms on the Martian poles.
But now, what scientists have confirmed is the existence of liquid, actually flowing on the surface of the planet. In 2011, NASA first noticed dark lines on the surface, appearing most prominently during the Martian summer.
NASA immediately suspected that these lines may represent liquid water, darkening and dampening the Martian surface. New imaging technology provided the strongest evidence that these lines may represent liquid water.
The lines are only visible during the Martian Summer and either fade or disappear altogether during the Martian Winter. After a lot of fancy science, and the help of the Mars renaissance orbiter, scientists were able to confirm that there is indeed liquid water on the surface of the planet.
Or at least a toxic and corrosive patch of mud on Mars.
Although we might be calling it water, it is really anything but. The Martian surface is too cold and the atmospheric pressure is too low for there to be any liquid water that would resemble what we might be accustomed to. On Mars the water has been attracted to and condensed with perchlorate salts, forming a brine that is able to withstand the extremely low temperature and pressure.
With one such new discovery, a new host of questions have appeared. Is there any of this stuff underground? How much of it is there?
And, perhaps most importantly: could the presence of water be a precursor for the development of microbial life?
Only time – and more research from NASA – can tell.