Kiwi astronomer says NASA discovery of water seeping out could mean life on Mars

September 29, 2015 4:06 am

The discovery of water seeping out of the steep slopes of Mars could
be an indication of simple life forms on the red planet, Kiwi and
international experts say.
Research released this morning
confirms the discovery of salt water in liquid form that flows down
certain Martian slopes each summer.
Stardome astronomer Dr Grant
Christie said research had been underway since Nasa first discovered
dark stops on the Martian slopes around five years ago.
the liquid discovered of the surface of the slopes doesn’t quite
constitute a babbling brook – it’s more like seepage out of a cliff face
– Dr Christie said it was still a significant discovery.

“It’s in very limited locality, so it doesn’t alter the fact
that Mars is still a very dry and inhospitable place to go and live. It
does confirm that you can have brief flows of liquid water on Mars.
“When you’ve got those conditions, it certainly raises the possibility that you could have living organisms.”
Any potential discoveries were likely to be very simple life forms, Dr Christie said.
were also other places in the solar system Dr Christie said were
equally good opportunities to find life – such as Jupiter’s moon Uropa
and Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

Dark narrow streaks called recurring slope lineae emanate out of the walls of Garni crater on Mars. Photo: Nasa/AFP/Getty Images
Dark narrow streaks called recurring slope
lineae emanate out of the walls of Garni crater on Mars. Photo:
Nasa/AFP/Getty Images
“I think the next step with Mars would be to get there and
eventually sample some water from some of these reservoirs below the
surface that presumably exist and examine them directly.
possible the seepage flows that come out, if they could sample those,
they could determine whether the chemistry of those indicated the
presence of any life.”
Dr Duncan Steel, a New Zealand-based Space
Scientist at the Nasa-Ames Research Center, said the presence of liquid
water had been expected and known about for some time.
major thing that has come about in the past two to three years is the
recognition that there is a huge amount of ‘salts’ (in particular
perchlorates) in the Martian soil, and the fact that these dissolve in
water and drop its freezing point significantly is a new recognition
from the past several years.”
He was also set to be involved in
future research with Nasa around the discovery of water on Mars and what
lies below the surface.

proposed Nasa mission in which I am involved, Icebreaker Life, for
launch in 2020 would do just what its title says: break through the top
layer of ice/permafrost, and see what is below.
“There is much we
must yet understand. There is certainly life in very salty environments
on Earth, and studying extremophiles is a big thing.”
the presence of water on Mars doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll all be
rushing to set up colonies in the future, Dr Christie said. It’s still
an unhospitable environment for humans, due to the lack of atmosphere,
exposure to radiation and temperatures that drop well below freezing.
you could live in some sort of subterranean dwelling unit for some
time, which would provide some protection – but who wants to go to Mars
to live in a hole in the ground.”
While Dr Christie “very much
doubted” the announcement was timed to coincide with this Friday’s
release of the Nasa-backed space flick The Martian, “you can’t rule
anything out with Nasa”.

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