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Wednesday, December 6th 2006

Water On Mars

Thank God For NASA Dumbing It Down
(That Wasn’t Sarcasm…)

And we mean literally.

Liquid water has flowed on the surface of Mars within the past five years, suggest images by the now lost Mars Global Surveyor (MGS). The results appear to boost the chances that Mars could harbour life.

Not everyone is convinced water created the “new” gullies on Mars in areas previously photographed.

Allan Treiman of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, US, agrees that something flowed recently to make the observed changes.

But he is not convinced that water was involved. “There is no direct evidence of water in the images – only that something flowed downhill. My money is on sand and dust, because there’s lots and lots of sand and dust on Mars.”

The guys running the Mars Global Surveyor have seen plenty of flowing dust and have a retort that basically says, “this looks nothing like the other streaks caused by flowing sand we’ve seen.” Read the article for it.

There are other “problems,” while we can theorize, no one can really say where the water might have come from or specifically how it didn’t freeze on reaching the surface. The ice at the core sublimates – turning directly from a solid to a gas. So it isn’t flowing from the caps. As well, the gullies,

would have involved 5 to 10 swimming pools’ worth of water.

It would have been similar to a flash flood in the desert, says team member Ken Edgett of Malin Space Science Systems. “If you were there and this thing was coming down the slope, you’d probably want to get out of the way,” he says.

Any liquid water exposed to Mars’s atmosphere would quickly freeze, but Malin’s team says even if the exterior of the flow rapidly freezes, water could continue flowing much farther inside this ice shell

That’s a lot of water.

If the deposits are the result of liquid water flow, the source of the water is not clear. Malin’s team suggests it comes from underground aquifers, perhaps kept liquid at low temperatures with the help of high salt concentrations.

Let the debate heat up – is there life on Mars?