In recent years, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has shown images of long dark streaks on the walls of a crater that were suspected to be from liquid water flows. However, people were skeptical, since it could have been a landslide instead. But now, there is direct evidence that these streaks are hydrated salts. The salts, or perchlorates, have been previously detected by landers, such as Viking and Phoenix. However, this is the first time that hydrated perchlorates have been detected. That means that it was wet. Liquid water. This briny water can exist in liquid form at temperatures below freezing. The streaks disappear as temperatures get colder, but appear during warmer weather.
This is really big. This means that there is flowing liquid water now on Mars. This kind of water is present on Earth in deserts, and it does support life. It’s very possible that life can exist on Mars today. It doesn’t mean that life does exist now, but we now know that it is likely to be able to support microbial life. Now we just have to examine these areas.
I don’t know about you, but I am very excited about this. This has been an amazing year for planetary science (just a recap: landing on and orbiting a comet, orbiting Ceres, Pluto flyby, Enceladus confirmed to have global liquid water ocean, Mars has liquid water). What can we expect next?
So, NASA has a big announcement coming about Mars tomorrow. There’s a lot of speculation about what it’s going to be. Water, ice, salt water, conditions for life, glaciers, flowing water, etc. Well, we already know about ice and glaciers. Can’t be that, can it?
They said it’s going to solve a mystery. Maybe it’s about flowing water? There have been many outflows seen, which could either be caused by landslides or flowing water. Maybe they’ve solved that mystery.
There’s a lot of hype leading up to this announcement, so it must be big. What do you think it is?
Dawn is approaching Ceres. In just over a month, on March 6th, Dawn will enter orbit around the largest asteroid and one of the so-called dwarf planets. It’s 952 km in diameter, which is pretty big for an object that isn’t quite a planet. It’s relatively spherical, as well.
There are many mysteries that will be addressed as Dawn orbits Ceres, including whether it may have a possible liquid water ocean lurking beneath its icy crust, and if it’s venting water vapour into a possible tenuous atmosphere. But the big thing that many people are wondering is what’s that bright spot?
The above animation was captured by Dawn on January 13th, 2015, and this is the best view we had of Ceres up to that date. There are evidently impact craters. The bright spot is easily visible in the images. But what is it? Is it fresh ice from a liquid ocean below? Or is it a recent impact crater? Either one is possible, but my guess is that it’s a fresh crater. What’s wonderful is that we’ll know very soon.
And looking at the most recent image from January 25th, we get an even clearer view.
What do you think that bright spot is?
The official blog of Jay Dee Archer. Exploring new worlds, real and fictional.