We've been asking if there's life out there in the universe since we first started looking up into the stars. Today we've come one step closer to answering that question. NASA scientists announced on September 28, 2015 that they have discovered liquid water on Mars.
The presence of water means that life is indeed a possibility. It's an exciting time to be alive, that's for sure. Let's find out how they discovered this and what it means for the red planet!
Researchers from NASA today reported on findings that show liquid water running down canyons and crater walls during the summer months of a typical Mars year.
These water paths leaves long, dark stains on the terrain that stretch on for hundreds of meters. They dry up when the temperature drops in the autumn months. Images show that these streaks form intricate patterns on the surface during the summer months.
We still don't know where the water comes from. Some say it could be from underground ice or from salt water aquifers beneath the surface. It could also come from the atmosphere and just condense during the summer months.
Michael Meyer, the lead scientist on the Mars exploration program told the Guardian in an interview that "There is liquid water today on the surface of Mars. Because of this, we suspect that it is at least possible to have a habitable environment today."
Previous research showed that the planet may have once had oceans and rivers in the past. The salt levels in the water currently found keep it from freezing until it gets below -23 degrees Celsius.
With this knowledge, four locations are now prime for potential life:
Right now the focus is trying to figure out where the water comes from. Another theory is that there are porous rocks under the surface that contain frozen water which melts during the summer and seeps up to the surface.
Another possibility is that the salts on the surface absorb the water from the atmosphere until they can run downhill. This is a process called deliquescence and it is currently seen in the Atacama desert on Earth.
On Earth, microbes are often found in the damp portions of areas where this occurs.