Water on Mars has been an on-going topic throughout planetary research and only recently has new evidence shown that it could be true in present day conditions. As technology advances, our knowledge on space exploration does also and technologies such as HiRISE, Curiosity and MRO have allowed us to gain an understanding of Mars that wouldn’t have been possible years ago. This report aims to bring together a small range of information about water on Mars from scientific research in an attempt to help the reader understand the progress. RSL, Curiosity, and mud cracks are few of the covered topics that have led scientists to believe liquid water is available on Mars and ultimately the potential for extra-terrestrial life.
It was in 1659, when Dutch scientist Christian Huygens (1629-95), first identified a large dark blemish on the planet Mars, which has now been identified as Syrtis Major – a low-relief shield volcano (Hiesinger and Head, 2004). By recording series of data and photographic evidence over numerous weeks of changes in the spot, he was able to come to the conclusion that: a day on Mars was similar to that on Earth and Cassini (1625-1712) confirmed it was 37 minutes longer in 1666. A century later, William Herschel was able to prove that Mars rotated at an angle of approximately 25°, much similar to Earth (Crawford, 2013), indicating that like Earth, Mars had seasons as it orbited the Sun leading scientists to believe that they shared similar characteristics; one being Mars’ ability to retain liquid water and possibly sustain life.
Consequently, this report will gather the past and present data regarding water on Mars and highlight the geological and geochemical evidence that suggests this idea.
In order to write this report, secondary sources of information that were used were websites (NASA, Space.com) for up-to-date material, scientific journals written by specialists in the subject and news articles e.g. The New York. To ensure an accurate representation of known information, reliable sources were chosen such as those from public sector organisations as the data and material provided is regularly updated and government controlled ensuring reliability.
Previous research led scientists to believe that liquid water was once abundant on the Martian planet as they discovered physical and chemical evidence through images taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (Redd, 2015). This new evidence also allowed verification of geological formations such as RSL, mud cracks and ancient waterbeds and chemical indications of hydrated salt deposits.
Recurring Slope Lineae
On September 28, 2015, it was announced that an imaging spectrometer on MRO had detected images of downhill streaks (Runyon and Ojha, 2014) on the surface named Recurring Slope Lineae. (NASA, 2015). RSL are narrow surface markings, up to 5m wide, that are typically darker than the surrounding ground and were previously reported in southern middle latitudes (McEwen et al. 2013) but now known to be plentiful in equatorial areas such as Valles Marineris. These linear patterns seemed to appear during the warmer spring and summer seasons (Choi, 2011) and are believed to be the remnants of flowing liquid water. This suggests that water is present, as the rock remains the same colour, with a change in brightness as when water is in contact with sand on Earth.
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