This might perhaps be one of the most important findings in NASA’s search for extraterrestrial life. Evidence indicating the existence of salty water in Mars have been reported in the journal Nature Geoscience. Lujendra Ojha, a PhD candidate in Planetary Science at Georgia Institute of Technology who reported the findings along with his colleagues, said that the amount of salt contained in the water determines whether it can support life or not. At the moment, it is not known whether the water can support life as we know it.
The findings are based on the analysis of a photograph taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The onboard spectrometer, CRISM, can look into these images and by analyzing the light spectra it receives, it can determine precisely what kind of minerals there are in the location. This analysis was used to find out the nature of the minerals on the surface of the planet.
Dark Streaks of up to a few hundred meters in length believed to be a result of flowing liquid water [Image Courtesy of NASA]
It is important to note that flowing water was not been captured in the image because water evaporates very quickly on the surface of Mars. However, traces of hydrates salt have been found. The hydrated salt bonds with water molecules next to it, leaving behind dark streaks that can be seen from the image. These dark streaks interested Lujendra Ojha and his team which finally lead to them to the conclusion that water was the best possible explanation of this event.
Here is an animated video showing the dark streaks, possibly made by flowing liquid water.