Water on Mars — there just might be…

Liquid water on Mars on the lander legs Today an article in National Geographic News reports that liquid water was recently seen on Mars. Phoenix, which landed near Mars’ north pole, has taken several photos of itself and a recent series of photos seem to show water droplets on the lander’s legs that are clumping together and running downward. If it’s not water, it’s a pretty good approximation, and definitely looks like a liquid of some sort. Scientists report:

This substance is probably saline mud that splashed up as the craft landed, study leader and Phoenix co-investigator Nilton Renno of the University of Michigan told National Geographic News. Salt in the mud then absorbed water vapor from the atmosphere, forming the watery drops, Renno said. The water can stay liquid even in the frigid Martian arctic because it contains a high amount of perchlorates, a salt “with properties like the antifreeze used to melt snow here in Michigan,” said Renno, who will present the work next month at the 40th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Finding liquid water under these conditions carries possible implications for Mars’s habitability, the scientists say.

Personally, I feel like I do at Christmas — all excited and expectant and jittery with glee. Imagine the possibilities. This is exciting news. It’s great news because water, even if it’s mud-salt water, is critical for supporting life. However, it also means that unless life can manage the huge amounts of salt in the liquid — well, it’s unlikely. But it does raise the chances that a human expedition to the planet for research purposes might be able to survive (after all technology could probably deal with extracting the water for use.). Meanwhile, these pictures are just amazing.

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