The presence of water on Mars is often talked about in the past tense — as in, billions of years in the past. But researchers have found clues that water could be flowing in the present, at least during warm seasons.
As an undergraduate at the University of Arizona, Tucson, Ojha was the lucky one to spot irregular features in a Martian crater he was studying. He had no idea what they were. Researchers spent months figuring it out, and determined that the finger-like shapes could be briny water.
In most cases, the possible water features appear to last for the equivalent of about two Earth months, Ojha said.
“Something in these areas is actually causing the spectroscopic signature to fluctuate as well,” Ojha said.Water could explain these variations, Ojha said.
Water in the seasonal flow would wash away small-sized grains — dust — and leave bigger grains. When water is not present, the bigger grains would remain, accounting for the changes in light absorption that researchers observed over time.
Grain sizes could vary without water, though. The Martian atmosphere could also be responsible for some variation in the spectrometer data, because one season is dustier than another, but Ojha thinks there is something else going on.
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