Salty water on Mars
There is water on the red planet, now confirmations come from day to day. But this water can be the basis of life on the fourth planet of the Solar System? Was there ever life on Mars? The researchers found that at certain times of the year brackish water that comes to the surface in a liquid state. The results were published in Nature Geoscience under the name of “Transient liquid water and water activity at Gale crater on Mars”, by F. Javier Martín-Torres et al.
Credit: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
Curiosity, the six-wheeled robot on NASA launched in November of 2011, allows us to learn about Mars in all its facets. The rover is exploring for almost three years (976 days Martians) the surface of the fourth planet of the solar system by studying the composition and looking for more evidence of water and life in a distant past. It seems that a group of researchers at the University of Arkansas has proven the presence of salt water on the Martian surface at certain times of the year.
The discovery was announced in Nature Geoscience and is based on data collected in more than two years in the vicinity of an impact crater in an area near the planet’s equator. Vincent Chevrier, of the Center for Space and Planetary Sciences, said: “What we have shown is that in certain circumstances, and only for a few hours a day, there may be the right conditions so that is formed on the surface of the brine.” This may explain a phenomenon observed by the orbiter around Mars (as the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment – HiRISE) called recurring slope lineae (RSL), literally dark stripes of wet sand that appear seasonally (during the “hottest”) own Martian slopes and that could be the sign of the presence of water on the red planet.
As we know, water is the basis of our life. Why experts seek far and wide in the universe, hoping to find one day a planet similar to Earth and space equally. Just on our planet it has been found that organisms adapt and thrive in even extremely brackish. Chevrier, however, believes that these conditions on Mars are too harsh to support life. He explained: “If we compare our observations on the thermodynamics of the formation of this brackish water with the knowledge of terrestrial organisms, it is not possible to find a way for the same organisms to survive on Mars.”
Credit: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
What is certain is that life on Mars, if it were possible, it would be really prohibitive: the planet, the temperature range is prohibitive, the weather is dry and the atmospheric pressure is 200 times lower than on Earth. If it was to be found a drop of pure water on the surface of the Red Planet, this would freeze or would boil in a few minutes. And this can happen on Mars because the atmosphere is almost non-existent.
In 2008, NASA’s Phoenix lander has identified sodium perchlorate in some soil samples collected on Mars: the perchlorate salts can keep water in liquid form even at temperatures below zero point (Phoenix landed right in an area – the polar – where you do not go over -20 °), by absorbing moisture from the atmosphere. Curiosity has had the honor to confirm the presence of these perchlorates in the soil at equatorial sending ground data on moisture and soil temperature during the different Martian seasons.
With these data, researchers have come to confirm their hypothesis: there is salt water in a liquid state, whose samples can be collected for future missions to Mars. And although this type of water does not seem able to sustain life, it could always be a vital resource for future human missions.