The recent discovery of possible salt water on mars could lead to extraterrestrial life on Mars. NASA's Reconnaissance Orbiter release photos of possible flowing water extending onto a rocky slope. The images show dark colored slim streaks flowing down from slopes and crevices. Brown streaks appear and disappear throughout Mars' winter spring and summer seasons. Briny water has been speculated to be flowing during those seasons.
"We expect water on Mars to be briny, to be salty, because we know that the surface is salty from all of the past landers and rovers...Furthermore, the salt serves to depress the freezing point of the water, so in places where it's below freezing, we see this activity, it is still plausible for that to be salty water," said Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona.
Recent evidence has been the strongest in years as researchers explains that the water may be salty as salt lowers the freezing temperature for water. According to McEwen, the dark colored finger like streaks were present on steep slopes and extend further downhill as the seasons become warmer. Certain streaks are considered to be hundreds of years old or even older. It is unclear if the flowing water is located under the planet's dusty surface or above.
"The best explanation for these observations so far is the flow of briny water...It's a mystery now, but I think it's a solvable mystery with further observations and laboratory experiments," said McEwen
NASA's orbiter continues to send images of Mars especially in its middle latitudes. The key focus of the orbiters is to discover if the Red Planet is capable of supporting life. Scientists have sent numerous spacecrafts to obtain evidence of biological microbial lifeforms. The chances of water increases the likelihood that life may exist. The latest evidence has sparked hope of making a remarkable discovery in the near future.
"NASA's Mars Exploration Program keeps bringing us closer to determining whether the Red Planet could harbor life in some form...And it reaffirms Mars as an important future destination for human exploration," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
In past discoveries, scientists uncovered crevices and markings of dried up rivers, lakes, various bodies of water from millions of years ago. It is speculated that Mars once supported large bodies of water on the planet's surface. It is also possible that water remains flowing on the planet thanks to evidence of small cracks on Mars' surface, leading NASA to believe that water sources have fallen underground.
Mars' recent showing of flowing water contributes proves to be stronger evidence than frozen liquid as flowing water holds better chance of sustaining life. The hypothesis of water flowing underground carries hope for the existence of living Martian organisms surviving in darker environments away from sunlight, similar to certain Earth lifeforms.
The recent discovery has sparked new interest back into life on Mars since its previous findings of evidence of extraterrestrial life. NASA was able to discover previous clues such as fossilized markings of microscopic life found from a Mars' meteorite called ALH84001 back in 1993. Based on matching chemical signatures with mars, scientist determined that the meteorite was over 15 million years old and entered the Earth's atmosphere thousands of years ago before being discovered in Antarctica in 1984.
Also in 2008, scientists had a previous encounter with briny ice that accumulated on a NASA probe stationed on Mars. Conclusions for past evidence and new flowing salt water on the Red Planet are still being determined and researched.
Click "START" to see extraordinary photos of Mars' flowing waters taken by NASA.