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Streams of salty water may be flowing on Mars, creating dark streaks on the surface of craters photographed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, researchers said Thursday.
“We have followed the water and have found repeated and predictable evidence of water flowing on Mars,” said NASA scientist Michael Meyer.
Seasonal changes in gullies on the steep slopes of craters in Mar’s middle southern latitudes shows the areas becoming darker in the spring and fading in the winter. The streaks could be the result of changes in the structure caused by the water.
Flowing liquid salt water is the most likely explanation, though at this point there is only circumstantial evidence of the theory, said researcher Alfred McEwen, who is the lead author of a paper on the find published in the journal Science.
The water flows would likely be as salty as that in the Earth’s oceans, because fresh water would not be liquid at temperatures like those found in this part of Mars.
The researchers have not yet found water flowing down the slopes, but will continue to observe the area in the hopes of doing so.
McEwan said he suspects water is present only in small quantities and only for short periods of time.
Researchers had long suspected various geological formations on the Red Planet were the result of past water and rovers have found water ice on the surface of the planet.