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Liquid water can exist on the surface of Mars

Posted on Sunday, 13 July, 2014 | Comment icon 9 comments

The Mars Phoenix lander. Image Credit: NASA
The Red Planet is capable of hosting liquid water, albeit for a short time during certain months.
The case for life on Mars has been given a boost this week thanks to a new study by researchers at the University of Michigan.

Using a special chamber to simulate the conditions on Mars the team discovered that, despite the planet's freezing temperatures, small amounts of liquid water can form on its surface during certain times of the year and providing that there is enough salt present.

The research follows the discovery by scientists in 2008 of what appeared to be beads of water forming on the legs of the Phoenix Mars lander. Dr Nilton Renno believes that these beads were created thanks to salts that had melted the ice beneath the lander and splashed up on to the spacecraft after its landing thrusters had blasted away the topsoil.

"For me, the most exciting thing is that I can now understand how the droplets formed on the Phoenix leg," he said, emphasizing the implications for finding life on Mars. "Even just a tiny droplet of water is enough for bacteria to grab hold of and survive."

Source: Independent | Comments (9)

Tags: Mars, Water

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by keithisco on 13 July, 2014, 11:05
It's not just temperature that determines whether water can exist in liquid form on Mars - much more important is atmospheric pressure and whether it is sufficiently high enough to prevent sublimation. On Mars the pressure is nowhere near sufficient to allow liquid water to exist at the surface. This article fails to tell us what the pressure in the vessel was, the proportion of this "special" salt to water, or the binding process between the water molecules to the salt. Will wait for a few more details to emerge before getting my "water wings" on....
Comment icon #2 Posted by Cloudshill on 13 July, 2014, 13:05
"Liquid water"..................really?
Comment icon #3 Posted by DefenceMinisterMishkin on 13 July, 2014, 13:07
Good to know any aliens living there can get a delicious drink of liquid water, at least some of the time..
Comment icon #4 Posted by Sundew on 13 July, 2014, 13:51
I seem to remember as a child reading that Mars could warm up to around 65 degress F. or so at the equator during the Martian summer? But it does not have to get nearly that warm for liquid water, especially with enough dissolved minerals within. We do have algae on earth that lives inside of translucent rocks in Antarctica, I remember seeing it on one of David Attenborough's television specials. During the very brief time above freezing, a bit of growth takes place then the algae becomes dormant again. Presumably the rocks are porous enough to allow some moisture in. So I suppose it mig... [More]
Comment icon #5 Posted by qxcontinuum on 14 July, 2014, 2:35
But we know already that some area of martian soil is soaked in water....
Comment icon #6 Posted by taniwha on 14 July, 2014, 7:53
Yes thats interesting. Did you catch this article earlier this year? Life never stops being full of suprises... It wouldnt be that much of a jump to suppose that alien life might be suitably adapted to survive extremes of temperature.
Comment icon #7 Posted by taniwha on 14 July, 2014, 8:21
I imagine a lifeform that can survive freezing martian winters might not be dissimilar to the mountain weta, an insect with the unique ability to be frozen in ice and emerge unharmed when thawed out. Apparently they have a special type of anti freeze coarsing through their veins.
Comment icon #8 Posted by keithisco on 14 July, 2014, 10:02
Temperature extremes don't preclude life at all - witnessed by the various extremophiles discovered here on Planet earth. I think the real issues would be organisms that can survive with very little liquid, and extremely low atmospheric pressures. It's possible (I think) for microbial life to ingest water ice and to have hardened cell membranes that can cope with extremely low pressures. For higher life - forms (multi cellular) I cannot imagine what the cell structure would be like as these conditions appear never to have occurred on Earth, so evolution has not catered for such extreme... [More]
Comment icon #9 Posted by Sundew on 14 July, 2014, 15:27
They may not preclude life, however life that lives at the low end of temperature extremes often has a very long life, but a very short season of activity. Lichens in such an environment may be hundreds or thousands of years old, but only able to grow a few days a year. There are mosses and mites in the polar regions that live far longer than their tropical counterparts, but at a much slower pace. As you mentioned, there are other reasons life may be difficult on Mars. There is also no magnetic field on Mars strong enough to keep out solar and cosmic radiation, although life underground m... [More]

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