Astronomers have known for a long time that there is water vapor and ice on Mars. This is, of course, good news, but even better news would be that there was actual running water on the planet as well. Now, new evidence may indicate that not only did water flow there in the distant past, it may still occasionally appear on the surface even now. This would possibly indicate that some form of microbial life exists on our neighbor planet, in spite of the extremely cold temperatures and seemingly inhospitable conditions.
In the course of studying our own planet and its history, the object is to find another heavenly body with similar characteristics to Earth. Of all the factors hoped for when examining a planet for life, water is one of the most sought after. It is, after all, the basis for life as we know it here on Earth. Gullies and craters have been apparent on the planet for some time, indicating that there were rivers, lakes, and possibly even oceans at one time. However, it wasn’t until within the last few years that the possibility of running water in recent years was made known. Thanks to the Mars Orbiter Camera on NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor, signs of deposits made by what is presumed to be running water, were discovered.
In the photos that were taken, flows appeared, which not only extended for several hundred yards, but even appeared to move around objects in their path. These seemed to contain deposited material that had been washed into the area by actual liquid water. These are lighter in color and easily recognized against the darker background. Once thought to be sand flows, it was decided that these were too light in color, and must be the remnants of ice, frost, or deposits from a water flow.
Of course, since the air temperature on Mars is normally around 32 degrees F, or much lower, any water that might surface and flow would be short lived in its liquid state. It has been known for some time that water flowed on the surface of the planet for millions of years, however, the discovery that it has appeared in recent years was a revelation, and a further reason to be optimistic about finding life on another world.
“NASA – NASA Images Suggest Water Still Flows in Brief Spurts on Mars.” NASA – Home. Web. 15 Feb. 2011. http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mars/news/mgs-20061206.htm