Dec
08
2006

Water on Mars? There's growing evidence

Mars erosion: Recent photos of Mars' surface show evidence of recent runoff of water on the Red Planet's surface (Photo from NASA)
Mars erosion: Recent photos of Mars' surface show evidence of recent runoff of water on the Red Planet's surface (Photo from NASA)

There’s growing photo evidence that water occasionally flows on the surface of Mars.

Photos from a NASA Mars orbiter taken over the span of several years show that erosion patterns have changed on portions of the Red Planet. Scientists have known that ice exists on Mars for quite a while, but these latest photographs help point to signs that liquid water occasionally can be found on the planet as well.

That’s especially important in the search for any forms of life on the planet. While past research has concluded that life was possible on the planet’s long past when it was warmer, these new photos help boost the odds that liquid water may exist somewhere on the planet today to help feed life forms.

Satellite photos have long shown gullies on the surface of Mars where water was believed to have flowed millions of years ago. Comparing photos of portions of Mars first photographed in 1999 and 2000 and then reshot in 2004 and 2005, researchers have found gullies in two spots that are part of the second series of photos, but not the first.

“Water seems to have flowed on the surface of today’s Mars,” says Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. “The big question is how does this happen, and does it point to a habitat for life.”

More Mars water: Here's a second image of another water runoff gully on Mars. (Photo from NASA)
More Mars water: Here's a second image of another water runoff gully on Mars. (Photo from NASA)

There are no visible channels or pools of water on Mars. That leads researchers to think that there may be liquid water in underground aquifiers, which occasionally release water to Mars’ surface. Underground temperatures of Mars might be warm enough to keep water in its liquid state.

The new gullies display evidence of water flow similar to what we see on Earth. They are about one-quarter of a mile long and have delta-shaped patterns at their ends, much like what we find at the end of our rivers and streams. Also, flow patterns in the areas around obstacles in the paths of the gullies show similar patterns like those we see here on earth of mud and sediment washing around the obstacle.

By the way, if you want to see more about the surface of Mars, the Science Museum of Minnesota’s 3-D cinema currently is showing the film “Mars,” which has footage taken from the Mars rovers currently scurrying around the planet. Maybe you’ll be able to see some signs of water in the background.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

This odd, because Mars has water only at it's poles. The poles are frozen solid. what could happen though, is that in the "summer" of Mars, the ice would melt.

posted on Sat, 12/09/2006 - 12:54pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

The only possible reason for Mars to have water is the poles. The poles are made of frozen water. the water would have to melt on mars' hot summer,

posted on Sat, 12/09/2006 - 12:56pm
Vitaliy's picture
Vitaliy says:

I think that make an emphasis on these photographs is wrong because "water runoff gullies" could be made by anything else(like tornado).

posted on Mon, 12/11/2006 - 10:19pm
Molly's picture
Molly says:

Molly Choate

This is really cool and if there was water runoff that can probably help us figure out what had happened on mars and help us figure out what might happen to us!!!

~Molly~

posted on Tue, 12/12/2006 - 6:04pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I think scientists should look for traces of carbon dioxide on mars because carbon dioxide can be converted into water same with hydrogen.

posted on Mon, 03/22/2010 - 2:31pm

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