With news that there is liquid water on Mars, Raymond E. Arvidson, PhD, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis and resident expert on Mars, explains how this discovery is different from earlier hints and signs of water on the red planet; whether we’re likely to find life now that we have found water; and whether the Opportunity rover will go explore the watery sites.
“It’s really a tale of two instruments,” Arvidson said of the report this week that briny water still flows on Mars.
Five years ago, the team in charge of HiRISE, a camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, published a paper in Science about strange dark streaks that appeared along the slopes of craters and mountains on Mars. The streaks lengthened during the summer and faded during the winter, only to reappear the following spring.
“How they formed was a mystery,” Arvidson said. “Was it a dry process, where material detached from the upper slope and rolled downhill, or was there in some way, shape or form a fluid lubricating the process? You see streaks like these in the Southwestern U.S., but they’re typically associated with water.”
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