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Thursday, December 7, 2006

Liquid Water

A new gully deposit in a crater in the Centauri Montes Region.
A new gully deposit in a crater in the Centauri Montes Region.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
Similar to the report in March 2003, NASA claims that there is liquid water on the surface of Mars. While not flowing rivers and oceans, it seems that little "waterfalls" can occur. They have come to this conclution based on changes in pictures from 1999 and 2001 to pictures taken this and last year. New deposits and craters have appeared in this time span. "The shapes of these deposits are what you would expect to see if the material were carried by flowing water," said Michael Malin of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. "They have finger-like branches at the downhill end and easily diverted around small obstacles." Malin is principal investigator for the Mars Orbiter Camera and lead author of a report about the findings published in the journal Science. While the atmosphere isn't dense enough to have liquid water on the surface for long, it could remain liquid long enough to create these short flows. "These fresh deposits suggest that at some places and times on present-day Mars, liquid water is emerging from beneath the ground and briefly flowing down the slopes. This possibility raises questions about how the water would stay melted below ground, how widespread it might be, and whether there's a below-ground wet habitat conducive to life. Future missions may provide the answers," said Malin. The deposits could be ice in the surface or ice dams bursting and letting water flow. The article notes that had it been dry dust, the deposits would be dark, not light, based on experience with the rovers and meteors. This is exciting news and might provide enough public interest to get there to explore this more.

This was mentioned by scienceguy yesterday on the forum

UPDATE 9-Dec-6: Here is the Science link

(More info: NASA)

- posted by Jim @ 12:59 EST