Water on Mars? (yet again)

We have had many announcements of water on Mars over the last years and today sees another. This time it is a bit more interesting because there is now photographic evidence for flows on the surface. And not just flows or channels made millions of years ago (or by wind) but flows that have happened in the last few years. I present some "before and after" images from Mars Global Surveyor (now probably deceased).

Water on Mars - before and after
A new gully deposit in a crater in the Centauri Montes Region.
CREDIT: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
And if that isn't enough, here are some perspective views of it.

Water on Mars?
A new gully deposit in a crater in the Centauri Montes Region. CREDIT: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
Wow! It certainly looks like a flow of something to me. Even better, it isn't the only one. The MGS team also have a before and after image of a gully deposit in a crater in Terra Sirenum. The suggestion is that the flows look like they were created by a liquid (I agree) moving debris down the slope and that this liquid may be water (it may not be). Of course, liquid water won't last long on the surface of Mars due to the low pressure and temperature - it converts rapidly into a gas or solid - so any water would not flow far and indeed this flow does seem to stop. It is compelling to say that this is water sublimating. I worry that it may just be some other liquid though.

The announcement of water is probably going to overshadow the other announcement the MGS team have made which is the discovery of two recent impact craters. By recent I mean that they have happened since 1999. That MGS saw any at all in this seven year period is quite amazing because it only imaged 5.2% of the surface. Hopefully Mars Express and Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter will pick up the baton and discover a few more.

Updated 19:59 CET: NASA have an audio interview with Mike Malin, the principal investigator for the Mars Orbiter Camera on MGS, about this topic.

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Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Wednesday 06th Dec 2006 (19:47 CET) | Permalink
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