'Flowing' water on Mars could actually be sand, reveals study

Delia Watkins
November 25, 2017

While water may still exist somewhere on Mars, as evidenced by the presence of hydrated salts, the study says that liquid water volumes "may be small or zero".

The features in question are dark streaks that show up periodically on Martian hills, known as recurring slope lineae, or RSLs. They found out that the steaks found on Martian surface were not flowing water but were likely the avalanches of sand and dust.

An announcement by NASA in 2015 that liquid water had been found on Mars was premature, according to new research. Since liquid water is key for life here on Earth, many thought these unusual lines of flowing water may help support life on the Martian surface.

Continuing examination of these still-perplexing seasonal dark streaks with the University of Arizona-led High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, or MRO, shows they exist only on slopes steep enough for dry grains to descend the way they do on faces of active dunes.

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"This new understanding of RSL supports other evidence that shows that Mars today is very dry", Dundas added. Hence, scientists were forced to believe that these dark streaks were nothing but the liquid water flows which occurred due to the melting of ice when the Sun warmed dry and barren Red Planet.

These features have evoked fascination and controversy since their 2011 discovery, as possible markers for unexpected liquid water or brine on an otherwise dry planet. If water was involved, the dark streaks would be visible on both steep and shallow slopes.

Monday's news throws cold water on 2015 research that indicated these recurring slope lines were signs of water now on Mars. Dundas and coauthors examined 151 RSL features at 10 sites. It could be limited to traces of dissolved moisture from the atmosphere and thin films of water. "Mars still has water now, it just might be in fewer accessible places", Michael Meyer, the lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program, tells The Verge. In September 2015, the U.S. space agency made a groundbreaking announcement regarding Mars. And that could decrease the chances of microbial life living on the Red Planet.

SCIENTISTS have dashed hopes of Mars supporting alien life after realising the mysterious "water" marks were actually left by SAND.

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