After years of searching and trying to find answers to the puzzle in Mars, scientists have finally found liquid water on the red planet’s surface!
Considering that Mar is a planet of extremes whose temperatures dip down to as low as -100 °C at night and go over 100 °C during daytime; it is nearly impossible for water to stay in liquid form there. Thus, finding liquid water on Mars is certainly something incredible!
Now, the big question is, how is liquid water formed in Mars?
Well, the answer is tricky and only based on what scientists have learned so far about the red planet. The evidence of liquid water was found in the planet’s driest and hottest region: Gale crater which is located along the equator.
In this portion of the planet, temperatures could be as “hot” as 0°C at night. Though that is already at freezing point, Mars’ environmental makeup is so different from Earth’s that chemicals could behave differently as well.
Scientists believe that salts are present at the surface. Evidence of perchlorate salts was detected as far back as 2008.
These large amounts of salts trap water vapor from the air. As sub-zero temperatures set in, the salts saturated by the water vapor liquefy to form “liquid brines in the uppermost 5 cm of the subsurface”.
These only lasts until the dawn because the sun quickly heats up the surface once the area faces the sun, leading to temperatures going over 100 °C. So, what liquid water might have been created during the night would quickly turn back to water vapor at daytime.
So, where are the pictures of the liquid water?
Well, that’s a tricky thing, actually. Scientists have not actually seen the liquid water forming on the surface but only relied on various data measured by the instruments aboard Curiosity, our rover on Mars. There are no cameras on Earth that could operate at very low temperatures, so sadly, we can’t see photos of the liquid water on Mars yet.
There’s still hope for that to happen in the Mars 2020 rover mission. Who knows? Someone might be able to create a camera to operate at -100 °C so the mission can finally beam back photos of the red planet’s liquid water.
For now, we should be content in the knowledge that liquid water is possible in Mars. Thus, if there are going to be manned missions to the red planet in the future, they might be able to find a way to make use of this liquid water. It might be too small for now but who knows what will be discovered in the future?