The Sciences

#75: Is That Water Flowing on Mars?

There may be water—and even life—in them there hills.

By Adam HadhazyDec 27, 2011 12:00 AM
Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Dramatic images of dried-up floodplains and apparent riverbeds have most astronomers convinced that liquid water once gushed on Mars, perhaps supporting ancient life. But last summer NASA astronomers announced that water may still be flowing on the Red Planet.

The evidence comes from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which captured images of thin, dark streaks—quite likely soil—creeping down several slopes during Mars’s spring and summer (see sequence at right). Dry soil should not move that way, so a team led by Alfred McEwen, principal investigator for the probe’s camera, proposed that liquid water carried the soil downhill. In the journal Science, the scientists noted that water could flow sluggishly just beneath the surface and remain liquid owing to high concentrations of salt, which acts as antifreeze. The orbiter continues to scan for clues; later this year NASA’s Curiosity rover will begin studying Martian surface chemistry up close.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.