A remarkable discovery by scientists has shown that particles of liquid water played a vital role in sculpting mysterious dark streaks on the planet Mars. These dark streaks become visual during the summertime months on the distant planet.
The new findings have many implications in the search for potential life forms on Mars, as well as possible human inhabitation and expeditions to the planet.
This newly appointed discovery, follows many years of speculations and studies to understand why the faces of many cliff walls on the planet Mars have various dark streaks and slopes that appear when temperatures are warm but vanish once winter falls upon Mars.
The streaks, known as recurring slope linear, or RSL, were first reported in 2011 in the Martian southern highlands, but have since been found throughout the planet’s equatorial region, particularly within deep canyons.
Using data collected by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and a new analysis technique, scientists were for the first time able to detect the tell-tale chemical fingerprints of hydrated salts in dozens of various sites amongst the planet.
“That implies that there was liquid water there very recently to leave this residue of hydrated salts. It confirms that water is playing a role in these features,” University of Arizona planetary geologist Alfred McEwen told the media.
“Water could form by the surface/subsurface melting of ice, but the presence of near-surface ice at equatorial latitudes is highly unlikely,” scientists told the media.
Another option is that salts absorb water vapour directly from the Martian air, though scientists are at a loss to explain how they could trap enough water from the tiny amount available in the atmosphere to seep downhill slopes and form the streaks.
“It’s just not clear that the atmosphere can supply enough water to do that,” said researchers.