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  NASA MRO: Possible Water Flows on Mars

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Author Topic:   NASA MRO: Possible Water Flows on Mars
Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 27327
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-04-2011 02:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
NASA Spacecraft Data Suggest Water Flowing on Mars

Observations from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed possible flowing water during the warmest months on Mars.

"NASA's Mars Exploration Program keeps bringing us closer to determining whether the Red Planet could harbor life in some form,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, “and it reaffirms Mars as an important future destination for human exploration."

Dark, finger-like features appear and extend down some Martian slopes during late spring through summer, fade in winter, and return during the next spring. Repeated observations have tracked the seasonal changes in these recurring features on several steep slopes in the middle latitudes of Mars' southern hemisphere.

"The best explanation for these observations so far is the flow of briny water," said Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson. McEwen is the principal investigator for the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) and lead author of a report about the recurring flows published in Thursday's edition of the journal Science. [continue reading]

Jurg Bolli
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Posts: 520
From: Albuquerque, NM
Registered: Nov 2000

posted 08-04-2011 03:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jurg Bolli   Click Here to Email Jurg Bolli     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Very interesting, thanks for posting it.

Spacefest
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Posts: 1056
From: Tucson, AZ USA
Registered: Jan 2009

posted 08-04-2011 05:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spacefest   Click Here to Email Spacefest     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I must put in a plug for Tucson's own Al McEwen, P.I.on the MRO camera. Dr. McEwen has been a featured speaker at Spacefests II and III.

328KF
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posted 08-04-2011 10:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Does this affect any operations for the upcoming Curiosity rover? Are there areas of Gale Crater that also exhibit these flows that can be directly investigated?

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 27327
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-04-2011 10:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Unfortunately, no. From The New York Times:
The Mars Science Laboratory rover, scheduled to launch late this year, will not be able to help. Its landing site is far from any of the streaks, and it would not be able to navigate the steep slopes.

David Carey
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Registered: Mar 2009

posted 08-05-2011 02:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David Carey   Click Here to Email David Carey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Fantastic stuff. It's unfortunate that direct surface observation will not be possible any time soon.

It would be great to confirm that flowing liquid water exists but I wondered if seasonal winds (aeolian activity) could be blowing dark silt from upper strata into the valleys/gullies and lower geographic features, with later (seasonal) dissipation. Despite the rarefied atmosphere on Mars and fractional pressures at work, could the patterns observed be explained by such an alternative?

I don't know enough here to even be dangerous so I'd be curious to hear from others who might. For the record, I prefer the idea of flowing water and wish them the best in conclusively proving the thesis.

Per McEwen's quote "It's a mystery now, but I think it's a solvable mystery with further observations and laboratory experiments". Hopefully those experiments will continue, and a bright spot in NASA activities amidst some of our shared gloom around the decline in manned missions.

So much still to learn from even our closest neighbors...

cspg
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Posts: 4046
From: Geneva, Switzerland
Registered: May 2006

posted 08-05-2011 02:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I thought that water in liquid form cannot exist on Mars due to the planet's thin atmosphere (liquid will vaporize as soon as it reaches the surface).

It was an international study. There were Swiss scientists (not that I care) involved in that study (University of Bern).

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 27327
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-05-2011 03:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As mentioned in the press release, the liquid water being theorized is a briny solution. From NASA Science:
Saltiness lowers the freezing temperature of water. Sites with active flows get warm enough, even in the shallow subsurface, to sustain liquid water that is about as salty as Earth's oceans, while pure water would freeze at the observed temperatures.

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