Narrow streaks known as recurring slope lineae found on the sides of Garni crater on Mars might be the result of flowing salty water. Photo credits: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.
When analysing data gleaned by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), researchers from NASA inferred that the planet has salty water running on its surface. The quest for water on Mars has led to many endeavours from scientists who wish to find whether life can be sustained on the planet. Previous studies suggest that frozen water is found at its poles and that salty water might be present underneath its surface, but this is the first time that evidence has been collected of it flowing on the surface.
It is said that for water to exist in the liquid form on its surface in warm seasons when temperatures vary from -23 to 27 degrees Celsius, it will have to contain salt. Salts such as perchlorates, sulfates, and chlorides were previously suggested to be present on Mars.
The presence of salty water was confirmed after the MRO detected Recurring slope lineae (RSL) which are thin and dark gullies found on the sides of craters. The RSL were spotted in low and mid-latitudes. They are less than 5 metres wide, and appear during the warm seasons, and fade during colder ones. Spectral data from the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars instrument (CRISM) of the MRO provided evidence for 3 hydrated salts, namely magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate.
The researchers concluded that salty water (brine) flows caused the RSL activity.
The next question is: from where does the water come? The researchers now have to delve deeper to provide answers.