Does Mars contain water under its surface? This is a question that may be close to being answered by NASA’s Curiosity rover, a new report from The Guardian claims. According to new measurements, Curiosity may have evidence that the soil on the red planet is damp with liquid brine, which is deemed an essential ingredient in the formation of life.
Head of planetary science at the Mullard Space, Professor Andrew Coates, believes that NASA’s discovery is genuine.
“The evidence so far is that any water would be in the form of permafrost. It’s the first time we’ve had evidence of liquid water there now.”
New findings suggest that a chemical substance found on the surface of Mars absorbs water vapour from its atmosphere, forming the brine which stays in a liquid state even below the normal freezing point of water.
Professor Morten Masden of the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen says that with these measurements picked up by NASA Curiosity, it means that the amount of water absorbed by Mars itself can be estimated and that a level of precipitation may be able to form under the surface.
“When night falls, some of the water vapour in the atmosphere condenses on the planet surface as frost, but calcium perchlorate is very absorbent and it forms a brine with the water, so the freezing point is lowered and the frost can turn into a liquid…The soil is porous, so what we are seeing is that the water seeps down through the soil. Over time, other salts may also dissolve in the soil and now that they are liquid, they can move and precipitate elsewhere under the surface.”
This also suggests that the Martian planet may have once had lakes and even rivers which existed millions of years ago.
However, according to The Independent, Curiosity’s discovery doesn’t necessarily suggest the probability of the existence of microbial life, despite evidence of water being found on Mars. Experts says this is due to cosmic radiation bombarding that took place on the planet’s surface. It’s also believed that precautions will need to be taken for any human missions as the liquid brine could be corrosive.
Curiosity – which originally settled onto the surface of the red planet in 2012 – also discovered what anomaly hunters believe to be ancient fossilized dinosaur bones earlier this year. While this is only speculation at this stage, the discovery of water on Mars by NASA’s Curiosity could spell exciting things for scientists.