Why Liquid Water Is Beginning To Form On Mars

Recent data gathered by NASA’s Curiosity rover suggests that liquid water may soon form and pool throughout the planet, near equatorial regions. Though Mars remains a frigid desert, perchlorate salts in the planet’s soils are lowering the freezing point of water. The lander recently discovered subsurface deposits of water which defy current climate beliefs. Past spacecrafts, however, have found evidence of transient liquid water previously on the planet.

These findings come after almost two years’ worth of humidity and temperature measurements in the Mars atmosphere conducted by Curiosity, and were just published this week in an issue of Nature Geoscience. Curiosity I currently exploring the impact basin known as Gale Crater near the Mars equator.

According to NASA’s computer models, briny waters are already forming in the upper two inches of the soil. The perchlorates absorb water vapor from the atmosphere in the form of liquid during the night. The water evaporates into the air once more when temperatures rise in the morning. Researchers conclude that the current water levels are still too low to support any kind of known terrestrial life.

“It is not just a problem of water, but also temperature,” wrote Javier Martin-Torres of Lulea University of Technology in Kiruna, Sweden. “The water activity and temperatures are so low in Mars that they are beyond the limits of cell reproduction and metabolism.”

Why Liquid Water Is Beginning To Form On Mars - Clapway

Researchers previously realized that brines may form on the planet in a separate effort by Martin-Torres and Maria-Paz Zorzano to include a brine-manufacturing fixture on the next Mars rover, which is slated to launch in 2020. Though this design wasn’t selected, the two researchers discovered something in studying Curiosity’s atmospheric findings.They realized the conditions should soon cause brines to form, and that the phenomenon would have widespread effects on the planet’s environment.

“As perchlorates are widely distributed on the surface of Mars, this discovery implies that the rest of the planet should possess even more abundant brines owing to the expected greater atmospheric water content and lower temperatures,” the scientists wrote in Nature Geoscience.

Such discoveries date back to the 1970s Viking experiments, which scientists now believe may have detected organic material without them realizing at the time. Martin-Torres and Zorzano still hope to include their brine-manufacturing instrument on the upcoming ExoMars mission in Europe.

Sometimes, as treacherous as a body of water is, its beauty can lie in its necessity for the purpose of sustaining life: