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To MARS with MER - Follow the Water
Follow the Water
Image courtesy Malin Space Science Systems/NASA
MGS has one more instrument which has returned even more fascinating evidence of possible water on Mars. Operated for NASA by Malin Space Science Systems, the Mars Orbiter Camera, MOC, has returned images of gulleys which closely resemble place on Earth where liquid water has emerged from a cliff, and gushed downhill, leaving a characteristic debris field at its foot. In 2001, Mike Malin and Ken Edgett published papers explaining that they were initially skeptical about what they think is a plausible explanation for these shapes: the activity of recent, liquid water on Mars surface. They say that the freshness of the patterns make them think liquid water might still sometimes flow on Mars! Others say there must be an alternative explanation--flows of liquid carbon dioxide, or sudden gushers caused by eruptions: certainly most researchers accept that water on Mars must instantly freeze or evaporate.
In 2002 and 2003, Mars Odyssey returned evidence of water ice, buried under the Martian surface. And researchers tracking Global Surveyor images over time found strange dark markings had appeared on some slopes. Many think this may have been caused by chemical-rich liquid water, with a lower freezing point than pure water, emerging onto the surface, and staining it as it ran downhill. Check out the links below, and NEW & NOW for all the latest on the "breaking story" of water on Mars.
Image courtesy NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems/Philip Christensen
From Lowell to the researchers of 2003, the search for signs of water is a constant theme... and the debates and discussions continue. Each new spacecraft mission resolves some past mysteries, but seems to serve up new images and ideas about water on Mars. It turns out that by following water on Mars, you’re also on the trail of possible life on Mars.