It’s not for the first time, but its different this time
NASA generated quite a bit of buzz in recent days with the apparent
discovery of flowing water on Mars. Now to everyone who has been following
astro science, this may sound very familiar, because for years we have been
reading that NASA has been finding evidences of water on Mars. So what is the
strong point behind the latest discovery that is making a lot of buzz. This time
really is different, however. This is because this time the evidence of water on
Mars is much stronger than all the previous occasion. So, come and have a
glance at these entire buzz, facts about this discovery in details.
Why are we interested in Mars?
Let’s start from the basic question that arises at first in our mind, “why
are we interested in Mars?”. After Earth, Mars is the planet with the most
hospitable climate in the solar system.. Mars is a terrestrial planet with
approximately the same landmass as earth though it is only 15% of earth’s
volume and 10% of earth’s mass. Because of its red appearance, Mars is also
known as red planet. The red planet is the home of the highest mountains as
well as the deepest, longest valley in the solar system.
Life on Mars
Due to its proximity and similarity with Earth, scientists have very strong
belief of possibility of life on Mars, either today or in past. Although there has
been much speculation, there has never been any proof of life existing on Mars.
However, cumulative evidence is now building that Mars once was habitable. It
may once have harboured primitive, bacteria-like life.
Water on Mars
Since water is the basic and most obvious source and proof of existence
of life, scientists has been trying to find the evidences of water on Mars. They
believe that Mars had liquid water on its surface in past, but due to climate
change on Mars, water might get disappeared from the Mars surface. Earlier
Mars had a thick atmosphere, but after the massive climate change that occurs
in past, the atmosphere became very thin and the current temperature on Mars is
very low and this is the reason why water can’t stay and flow on the surface of
Mars in liquid form, but it might today also be available under the surface of
Mars. There have been evidences that it may be in the form of frozen water.
Dark narrow streaks on the slopes of Garni Crater, inferred to be formed by the
seasonal flow of water on the surface of present day Mars
In this September, NASA scientists found some strong evidences of water
on Mars and this discovery has given us a lot of hopes about the possibility of
life on Mars. According to the lead scientist on NASA’s Mars exploration
programme Michael Meyer, “there is liquid water today on the surface of the
Mars. Because of this we suspect that it is at least possible to have a habitable
Liquid water runs down the canyons and crater walls over the summer
months on Mars, according to the researchers. The trickles leave long, dark
strains on the Martian terrain that can reach hundreds of metre downhill in the
warmer months, before they dry up in the autumn as surface temperatures drop.
Images taken from the Mars orbit show cliffs, and the steep walls of
valleys and craters, streaked with summertime flows that in the most active
spots combine to form intricate fan-like patterns.
Dark long streaks caused by contemporary flowing water on Mars. Blue coloured
areas show where the mineral pyroxene is present, not water.
Just finding the water–is it enough?
Finding evidence for flowing water is not the same as finding life. Right now,
scientists don’t know where this water is coming from, or if the chemistry in
these Martian seeps is even life-friendly. There are some of the key things
about this discovery, you need to know. There are good things as well as bad
things. Let’s start from the bad things first.
This is not water just sitting on the surface. The atmospheric pressure on Mars
is so low that liquid water will immediately vaporize on the surface. The
evidences we have found is for seeps of salty water that flow down steep slopes,
mostly the rims of craters, forming dark streaks, not sitting on the surface of
Mars. Also before you start thinking of a second house at Mars, know this fact
that this water is not drinkable. The water on Mars contains percolate salt, that
can be toxic to human. Salty Mars water is probably not suitable for life. This is
the biggest downer in the NASA discovery. so this detection doesn’t mean that
we have found a viable habitat on Mars.
How the water exists in liquid form?
The water on Mars is cold, as cold as 10 degree below zero Fahrenheit (-23
degrees Celsius). You may be wondering how water stays liquid at -10 degrees
F. The answer for this question is that the water on Mars is super salty. Salt can
melt ice on in sub-freezing weather; it can keep water liquid at the frigid
temperatures of Mars. Salt helps lower its freezing point way below the average
32 degree F. However, even the salt cannot stop it from turning to ice during
autumn and winter when the surface temperatures drop as low as -195 degree F.
Where there is some water, there is probably more. We don’t know if the salts
are absorbing water from the atmosphere or if the water is coming from some
other source. Either way, today’s news indicates that there is more water on
Mars, moving in a more complicated cycle, than scientists thought before. That
increases the likelihood that there are other spots (underground, almost
certainly) that have more life-friendly water sources. Though scientists don’t
know the origination of water, but as this water contains salt and this salty water
may contain some organic compound. Water and organic compounds, these two
are the fundamental ingredients of life extremely common throughout the solar
So, the evidences of water have been found on Mars. But the frustrating thing
here is that we can’t follow this particular water. Not yet. Because sending a
spacecraft to an area where liquid water flows is much too risky. For now
scientists are trying to find out, from where this water is coming from and for
this purpose the simplest mantra is “follow the water” and that is exactly
scientists are trying to do. Hopefully NASA will send a spacecraft to Mars in
Let you know that not only Mars, there are many other comets, planets and
moons having water on their surfaces. Jupiter’s moon Europa has a huge ocean,
more than twice as large as Earth’s entire, hidden just beneath its icy crust.
Saturn’s moon Enceladus has a buried ocean, too. There are water and carbon
compounds in comets. There is water at Mercury’s North Pole. There is water
on the moon. Mars, finally, has joined the population of bodies where we know
water flows and that’s interesting enough on its own.
All of these places are out there, waiting to be explored. The potential of this
discovery is truly revolutionary. No doubt, in near future there will be more
discoveries and those will be greater, exciting and more revolutionary.
Let’s hope for the best.