A look at what Water on Mars Means to Astronomers

Headlines that life has been found on Mars were a little premature, and for many people, brought to mind the kind of Martian life that we have only encountered in sci-fi movies. However, there is a possibility that since there is ice and water vapor, and occasionally, running water on the planet’s surface that some form of life, at least in microbe form, may be found there.

For residents of the planet Earth, water is synonymous to life, and there is every reason to believe that it is the same everywhere in the universe. So, when there seemed to be evidence that not only had there been actual running water on Mars in the distant past, but within the last few years, astronomers were excited.

When looking at any of the other planets, whether it be their atmospheres, land formations, or resources, astronomers get a better idea of the beginnings of our own world. These primitive life forms on Mars, if they are found to exist, might very well be a window to our own past.

For many years, astronomers have been very well aware of ice and water vapor on Mars, and have observed craters and gullies, which looked very much like dry river beds. The question as to where the water was, how far below the surface, and if anything lived there, was of special interest. Recently, when it became apparent that water had actually flowed onto the surface within the last decade, interest grew even more. While the water most likely froze within a very short period of time in the extreme cold atmosphere, the realization that it was there, close to the surface was promising.

There is no question as far as scientists are concerned that Mars, at one time, had rivers, lakes and maybe even oceans. What they want to know now is, if Mars developed all these properties at the same time that Earth did, what happened to Mars. Of course, the temperature difference alone accounts for a major difference in the planets, but what they are intrigued by now is whether or not Mars once had life, and if so, what was it like.

So far, even though all planets have some ingredients for life, only Earth contained water. If Mars had water, they may have had an atmosphere, and if so, scientists want to know what happened to it. Some believe it may even have had oxygen, although this is just speculation.

One of the most sought after discoveries of any astronomer is finding another planet that can sustain life. While Mars may not have life, the very fact that water may have been found is the closest we have gotten to a planet comparable to Earth.