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NASA Announces Discovery of Flowing Liquid Water on Mars
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Posted 2015-09-28, 12:51 PM
New findings from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.

Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time. They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler seasons. They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times.

“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water -- albeit briny -- is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”

These downhill flows, known as recurring slope lineae (RSL), often have been described as possibly related to liquid water. The new findings of hydrated salts on the slopes point to what that relationship may be to these dark features. The hydrated salts would lower the freezing point of a liquid brine, just as salt on roads here on Earth causes ice and snow to melt more rapidly. Scientists say it’s likely a shallow subsurface flow, with enough water wicking to the surface to explain the darkening.

"We found the hydrated salts only when the seasonal features were widest, which suggests that either the dark streaks themselves or a process that forms them is the source of the hydration. In either case, the detection of hydrated salts on these slopes means that water plays a vital role in the formation of these streaks," said Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, lead author of a report on these findings published Sept. 28 by Nature Geoscience.

Ojha first noticed these puzzling features as a University of Arizona undergraduate student in 2010, using images from the MRO's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). HiRISE observations now have documented RSL at dozens of sites on Mars. The new study pairs HiRISE observations with mineral mapping by MRO’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM).

The spectrometer observations show signatures of hydrated salts at multiple RSL locations, but only when the dark features were relatively wide. When the researchers looked at the same locations and RSL weren't as extensive, they detected no hydrated salt.

Ojha and his co-authors interpret the spectral signatures as caused by hydrated minerals called perchlorates. The hydrated salts most consistent with the chemical signatures are likely a mixture of magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate. Some perchlorates have been shown to keep liquids from freezing even when conditions are as cold as minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70 Celsius). On Earth, naturally produced perchlorates are concentrated in deserts, and some types of perchlorates can be used as rocket propellant.

Perchlorates have previously been seen on Mars. NASA's Phoenix lander and Curiosity rover both found them in the planet's soil, and some scientists believe that the Viking missions in the 1970s measured signatures of these salts. However, this study of RSL detected perchlorates, now in hydrated form, in different areas than those explored by the landers. This also is the first time perchlorates have been identified from orbit.

MRO has been examining Mars since 2006 with its six science instruments.

"The ability of MRO to observe for multiple Mars years with a payload able to see the fine detail of these features has enabled findings such as these: first identifying the puzzling seasonal streaks and now making a big step towards explaining what they are," said Rich Zurek, MRO project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

For Ojha, the new findings are more proof that the mysterious lines he first saw darkening Martian slopes five years ago are, indeed, present-day water.

"When most people talk about water on Mars, they're usually talking about ancient water or frozen water," he said. "Now we know there’s more to the story. This is the first spectral detection that unambiguously supports our liquid water-formation hypotheses for RSL."

The discovery is the latest of many breakthroughs by NASA’s Mars missions.

“It took multiple spacecraft over several years to solve this mystery, and now we know there is liquid water on the surface of this cold, desert planet,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “It seems that the more we study Mars, the more we learn how life could be supported and where there are resources to support life in the future.”

http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/na...n-today-s-mars
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Posted 2015-09-29, 12:33 AM in reply to Demosthenes's post "NASA Announces Discovery of Flowing..."
It sounds like the "flowing" descriptor is being improperly used according to the chief scientist.

Rich Zurek, Chief Scientist, NASA Mars Program Office; Project Scientist, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter said:
Think of this as a "seep" not a flow. We have not seen flowing water on the surface. We see something that darkens the soil, which may be just a wetting action but still involves (briny) liquid. -RZ

This is still really cool though. Here is an AMA that a few from the team did on Reddit today.
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Posted 2015-09-30, 08:58 AM in reply to Demosthenes's post "NASA Announces Discovery of Flowing..."
From what I read, this flowing water is salty like the dead sea, so not conducive to life.
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Posted 2015-09-30, 02:26 PM in reply to WetWired's post starting "From what I read, this flowing water is..."
WetWired said: [Goto]
From what I read, this flowing water is salty like the dead sea, so not conducive to life.
The Dead Sea can sustain microbial life.

Here's a gif: (pronounced gif as in gorgon from the movie small soldiers.)

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Posted 2015-09-30, 05:20 PM in reply to Demosthenes's post starting "The Dead Sea can sustain microbial..."
Actually, the example was an Antarctic surface salt lake that was utterly dead, but I didn't want to explain all that. Now I have.
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Posted 2015-09-30, 05:27 PM in reply to WetWired's post starting "Actually, the example was an Antarctic..."
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/09/29....html?referer=
Quote:
Christopher P. McKay, an astrobiologist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., does not think the recurring slope lineae are a promising place to look. For the water to be liquid, it must be so salty that nothing could live there, he said. “The short answer for habitability is it means nothing,” he said.

He pointed to Don Juan Pond in Antarctica, which remains liquid year round in subzero temperatures because of high concentrations of calcium chloride salt. “You fly over it, and it looks like a beautiful swimming pool,” Dr. McKay said. “But the water has got nothing.”
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Posted 2015-10-06, 12:01 AM in reply to Demosthenes's post starting "The Dead Sea can sustain microbial..."
This is so cool. Reverse panspermia?

What a great time to be alive, this will surely help SpaceX and other various private space companies more funding and maybe even more for NASA.














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Posted 2015-10-06, 12:40 PM in reply to D3V's post starting "This is so cool. Reverse panspermia? ..."
What do you mean by reverse panspermia? That we should colonize Mars?

On an unrelated note, I hope the success of all of these recent movies in what I call the "firm space sci-fi genre" (Gravity, Interstellar, The Martian) are also going to lead to renewed interest in space exploration.
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Posted 2015-10-06, 05:33 PM in reply to Demosthenes's post starting "What do you mean by reverse panspermia?..."
I rather hope that Gravity leads to interest in space garbage collection
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Posted 2015-10-08, 10:33 AM in reply to WetWired's post starting "I rather hope that Gravity leads to..."
Heard a bit on NPR about how the cost to clear space junk is much more than just avoiding or fixing what it hits.

I understand space exploration, but why is there so much drive to colonize Mars?
It's a seemingly dead planet, comparable to the harshest zones on our Earth.
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Posted 2015-10-08, 12:35 PM in reply to Wallow's post starting "Heard a bit on NPR about how the cost..."
It is now, but it won't be forever. The cost of ignoring it too long could be the inability to reach space without unreasonable armor weight.
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Posted 2015-10-08, 01:18 PM in reply to Wallow's post starting "Heard a bit on NPR about how the cost..."
The drive for Mars seems more about just getting boots on it at this point rather than colonizing it.
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Posted 2015-10-08, 06:26 PM in reply to Demosthenes's post starting "The drive for Mars seems more about..."
Well, there is that group looking to do a one-way trip in the near future. As far as "Why Mars?" goes, I think it's the belief that there's more discovery potential there than any other place we could reasonably get humans to in the near future. The moon is old-hat, and I'm sure some billionaire will start a mining colony there soon enough. If you want to work on problems that stretch our abilities, you focus on Mars.
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Posted 2015-10-08, 10:26 PM in reply to WetWired's post starting "Well, there is that group looking to do..."
WetWired said: [Goto]
Well, there is that group looking to do a one-way trip in the near future.
Yea, but I didn't think anyone really took Mars One seriously. Honestly sounds like a scam to me.
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Posted 2015-10-12, 05:38 AM in reply to Demosthenes's post starting "Yea, but I didn't think anyone really..."
Mars One definitely wreaks of scam.

Quote:
I understand space exploration, but why is there so much drive to colonize Mars?
Why Mars? Because it has fuel. This finding of water only means one thing: that there is more of it under the surface crust.

Once they can obtain a source of water they can harvest hydrogen. You can't do that on the Moon, and Mars is the next closest thing. That's why.

And if they don't find more water, fuck it. We've developed the technology capable of getting to Mars which means we will be closer to other planetary travels than we were before.

That's why I follow and love what SpaceX is doing and seemingly is continuing to do. They state that they are pushing for these goals as an "insurance policy for humanity" to which I applaud.














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Posted 2015-10-12, 11:17 AM in reply to D3V's post starting "Mars One definitely wreaks of scam. ..."
From what I understand, the hydrated salts that indicated the water are/are an essential component of one type of rocket fuel, so there is that. Regardless, fuel isn't enough. The fuel that we know for sure exists is not abundant enough to travel all the way to Mars to get it, unless we were already headed that way.

The moon on the other hand has structural metals that can be moved to space for a very small fraction of the cost to do so from earth and is close to earth, when compared to Mars.

Last edited by WetWired; 2015-10-12 at 11:25 AM.
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