NASA’s tease: ‘Mars mystery solved’

September 27, 2015 6:09 pm

 Evidence of moving water would be the best indication researchers have had of life on the Red Planet. Photo / Getty Images

There is growing speculation that is about to announce it
has discovered liquid water on Mars after the space agency called a
press conference for tomorrow entitled “Mars mystery solved”.
the centre of the rumours is Lujendra Ojha, a graduate student at
Georgia Tech in the US, who has been announced as one of the speakers
alongside two of Nasa’s most senior scientists.
Ojha is credited
with “accidentally” discovering the first major evidence that moving
water existed on Mars after studying images of the planet’s surface in
2011 while at the University of Arizona.
With Alfred McEwen, who
is also tabled to speak at the Nasa press conference, Ojha decided to
study images of gullies on the surface of Mars taken by a fellow
researcher, Colin Dundas.
Ojha edited the images to remove
blemishes such as shadows and light interference and discovered dark
finger-like markings that moved through the gullies over time, in a
pattern consistent with flowing water.

Ojha called the discovery a “lucky accident”, saying he
had no idea what the shapes were at first, but once the potential
significance of the shapes was realised he committed to “years of
research” trying to prove that the markings were created by flowing
Since Ojha’s discovery, observations of similar sites on
Mars have revealed that the finger-like patterns seem to emerge in
warmer seasons and die away during cooler seasons. This could mean there
is flowing water under the surface of the Red Planet that rises to
ground level during warmer weather.
If scientists have found
definitive evidence of liquid water on Mars then the implications could
be huge, as evidence of flowing water is still the best indication
researchers have that life may once have existed, or may yet come into
existence, on an alien world.
Evidence of water on Mars is
nothing new. Polar ice caps were discovered there nearly four decades
ago, and erosion patterns on the surface suggest rivers and oceans may
have existed there in its early years.
But with low gravity and a
thin atmosphere, it is thought that this water largely evaporated out
into space instead of falling back down, as it would have done on Earth.
evidence of liquid water on another planet would be the first discovery
of its kind. While scientists strongly suspect that liquid water could
exist on moons such as Ceres and Europa, this hypothesis has not yet
been proven.

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