Researchers at the University of Michigan say they’ve discovered one way liquid water might flow on Mars, despite temperatures way below water’s freezing point.
The scientists used pressurized capsules to simulate the climate and cold temperatures of the Martian surface — specifically, its polar region.
There is water there — NASA’s Phoenix lander is sitting near Mars’ north pole and has spotted frozen water during its investigations.
The key to liquid water is a salt in the Martian soil called calcium perchlorate. Researchers found when this salt mixes with ice, it melts the ice to liquid, even at extremely cold temperatures. (Via Space.com)
It’s much the same way we melt ice on the sidewalks in winter here on Earth.
The results appear to confirm earlier theories of how droplets of apparent liquid water got splashed onto Phoenix — it’s the salt’s fault. (Via Universe Today, National Geographic)
This is also the wettest news from the Red Planet in some time.
Recent discoveries have been meteorites that suggest ancient water movement, a discovery by the rover Curiosity that Martian soil it sampled was about 2 percent water by weight, or dried lake beds that suggest there used to be much more running water on the Red Planet’s surface. (Via Mashable, CNN, Scientific American)
This news holds more immediate promise, according to one of the researchers.
“By studying the formation of liquid water on Mars we can learn about possibilities of life outside Earth and look for resources for future missions.” (Via American Geophysical Union)
The team has published its findings in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.