I’ve lost count of the number of times that the scientific consensus on whether or not there’s liquid-phase water on Mars has changed, and that’s just within the span of me blogging here at Futurismic (so, six years or thereabouts). But it looks like we just flipped back toward certainty, as images from NASA’s Mars Recon Orbiter show what may well be streams of salt-saturated water flowing down slopes during the Martian equivalent of summer:
More than a thousand dark trails were observed running down some slopes in Mars’s southern hemisphere during warm periods of the year, fading in the autumn.
There are more trails on the warmer, sun-facing parts of the planet, which would be consistent with water that flows in summer and freezes in winter.
Researchers from the University of Arizona said that salty water was the “best explanation” for the markings, which are between half a metre and five metres wide and run for hundreds of metres down some craters.
Although the images do not provide definitive proof of salt water on Mars, scientists claim that temperatures on the sun-facing areas of the planet’s surface would be too warm for frozen carbon dioxide and too cold for pure water.
Science being science, of course, this is merely well-informed speculation based on accumulated evidence, and the boffins are at pains to point out that more research and observation is required before anyone can talk in terms of true certainty.
So I’ll say it again: let’s just go there already.