Print 24 comment(s) - last by tallcool1.. on Feb 24 at 12:17 PM

Images taken of the Phoenix Lander's leg on mission days 8, 31, and 44 show what scientists believe to be droplets of saline mud containing liquid water. Scientists believe that perchlorates in the soil act as antifreeze, keeping the water liquid. If so, the images would mark the first discovery of liquid water on Mars.  (Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech//University of Arizona/Max Planck Institute )
New photographs provide perhaps the most compelling evidence to date that there is liquid water on Mars

Mars has been the subject of intense interest of late.  Recent discoveries have shown the Martian atmosphere to contain methane, which comes primarily from biological sources, indicating that perhaps the planet once held life.  Further images of Martian glaciers provided more evidence that liquid water and ice may be flowing on the planet.

Now perhaps the most compelling photographic evidence to date of liquid water on Mars has been taken by the Phoenix Lander.  The Phoenix Lander is a NASA probe launched in 2007, which touched down early last year and has since been tasked with searching for signs of life on the planet.

The new photos were "self portraits" of the lander's leg.  What appears to be liquid droplets form on the leg and in time lapse images appear to glide across the surface, occasionally merging like water droplets. 

Phoenix co-investigator Nilton Renno of the University of Michigan has released a paper, which states that the droplets appear to be saline mud, containing water.  He believes the mud splashed up onto the lander when it touched down.  He says that the local sediments contain perchlorates, salts which can essentially act as antifreeze, potentially explaining how water could be staying liquid in the frigid Martian arctic region.

Other instruments on the Phoenix Lander failed to show signs of water in the local soil.  Furthermore, the pictures are relatively low resolution.  However, Professor Renno believes the droplet behavior points conclusively to water.  He states, "As it cooled down toward the end of the mission and we're seeing the formation of frost everywhere, the drops almost disappear.  This is consistent with [liquid] drops freezing and losing water to the atmosphere as it gets colder."

He cites features of one of the largest droplets, 0.4 inch (a centimeter) wide, which was imaged dripping down the leg, as further evidence.  The drop darkens before it drips, which is consistent with water, which is less reflective in its liquid form.  He describes, "Before it drips it becomes dark, and that's consistent with ice melting."

Nicholas Tosca, a geochemist at Harvard University, not involved with the study, spoke with National Geographic and said that the perchlorates found in the soil could indeed allow water in the area.  He says that perchlorate-containing droplets could stay liquid until -94 degrees Fahrenheit (-70 degrees Celsius), around the coldest temperature experienced by the lander at the time the images were taken.

He said that the strongly fluctuating polar temperatures would likely lead to cycles of freezing and melting.  This is consistent with Professor Renno's belief that the droplets liquefied during the day and froze at night.

Professor Tosca says the new findings are pretty strong evidence of liquid water on Mars, which would make the prospects of human inhabitation much more promising.  However, he says that the evidence does not provide any further support to theories about life on Mars due to the toxic nature of the perchlorate compounds in the soil.  He states, "If you make the case that life could have started on Mars and could be hiding out somewhere it's not likely to be in this cold, salty water."

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Business proposition
By chmilz on 2/23/2009 12:32:52 PM , Rating: 2
Anyone wanna go into a martian water bottling business with me? I'm sure vain celebrities would be willing to pay $10,000 per bottle to prove their superiority over us lesser people.

*Fine print* Water may in fact be partially treated sewage, but reading is soooo not cool, so you'll drink and wash your face with this stuff anyway.

RE: Business proposition
By Gzus666 on 2/23/2009 12:36:28 PM , Rating: 2
We could branch out into Martian holy water as well. Martian baptisms could be all the rage. I think this is going places...

RE: Business proposition
By Aloonatic on 2/24/2009 4:04:35 AM , Rating: 2
This message has been approved by the Space Pope.

RE: Business proposition
By grath on 2/23/2009 12:40:12 PM , Rating: 4
Just put an umlaut over it and people will think its fashionable.

"MÜD... the new fragrance by Calvin Klein"

RE: Business proposition
By phxfreddy on 2/23/2009 6:17:41 PM , Rating: 1
Umlauts....Hitler used to snack on those like crazy. He like the crunchy goodness and the saline twinge.

RE: Business proposition
By MrHanson on 2/23/2009 1:29:00 PM , Rating: 4
That kind of water most likely comes from Uranus.

By randomposter on 2/23/2009 11:54:32 AM , Rating: 3
What's 0.4 inches wide and drips down a martian lander's leg?

RE: Riddle
By JasonMick on 2/23/2009 11:58:55 AM , Rating: 4
Sean Connery voice:
That's the riddle I gave your mom last night, Trebeck! Mwahuahua


RE: Riddle
By pxavierperez on 2/23/2009 4:14:12 PM , Rating: 1
distasteful yet still funny. ;D

RE: Riddle
By phxfreddy on 2/23/2009 6:15:34 PM , Rating: 1
How do you know its not tasty? .... Is there something you are not telling us?

Liquid (omit water, please) found on Mars.
By Hawkido on 2/23/2009 3:15:07 PM , Rating: 4
I will give them that this appears to be liquid.
Liquid methane maybe, list all the liquids that can be vapors at those temperature ranges and still condense on metal in the temperature difference of that shade? Any one of them could be what condensed there.

I am not saying it isn't water, I am just saying stop sounding so certain that it IS water.

Science is about determining the unknown. You don't play Texas Hold'em by trying for a full house, you get what you are dealt, and sometimes you have to go all the way to the River card before you find out what that is (there is no bluffing in science). If these YaHoo's played cards like they played science they would go all-in on the first hand, and be leaving the table before the second hand was dealt.

Also, Methane is a common geologic hydrocarbon... actually the simplest hydrocarbon. CH4 - all 4 bonds of Carbon occupied by Hydrogen. Just because it is also a biological gas, just means it is requires very little energy to assemble (and carbon and hydrogen are bountiful in the inner solarsystem), else the biological process would have 0 or <0 net energy output.

More complex hydrocarbons require high temp and/or high pressure, to concatenate the methane into more complex and energy-laden forms of hydrocarbons.

RE: Liquid (omit water, please) found on Mars.
By Hawkido on 2/23/2009 3:31:44 PM , Rating: 2
Looking at those photos... this could also be some form of mineral corrosion or depost. What is that lander structure constructed out of? If it is a foreign metal to the Martian landscape it could be reacting to the other elements/compounds in the atmosphere. Doesn't moisture condense on glass faster than metal (due to thermal capacitance?) why isn't this forming on the lens of the camera?

Why am I the only one even asking these questions? These are easy questions to ask! If we are planning to go to Mars wouldn't it be nice to know if the atmosphere is going to barnacle on certain types of metals?

As to the "poor quality" camera, I would think this is a navigational camera as it is aimed at the ground with a good navigational view, it may double as a ground anaylsis camera as well but it is B&W as the images are cleanerand higher contrast. 32-bit color is only 8-bit (256 color) contrast per color with an 8-bit alpha palet. a 16-bit B&W is 64,000 colors (or shades of contrast)

RE: Liquid (omit water, please) found on Mars.
By Reclaimer77 on 2/23/09, Rating: 0
By Hawkido on 2/23/2009 6:40:51 PM , Rating: 1



uh oh!
By omnicronx on 2/23/2009 11:58:56 AM , Rating: 3
Someone call Spiderman! Venom has infected the mars rover!

Das Water
By unclesharkey on 2/23/2009 1:03:58 PM , Rating: 2
Strange water. It seems to build up but never move. You would think it would build up to the point where it would run down the leg of the lander. If you look at the photos, the last too almost look identical. I don't see anything gliding across the surface. Could it be frozen water droplets? You would think they could send something to Mars that would take better pictures.

By Ichinisan on 2/23/2009 6:38:38 PM , Rating: 2
"Other instruments on the Phoenix Lander failed to show signs of water in the local soil."

This makes it seem very unlikely that there is enough watery mud to splash on the thing if sensors made to detect specifically that did not detect it in the area.

-94 degrees Fahrenheit
By tallcool1 on 2/24/2009 12:17:19 PM , Rating: 2
He says that perchlorate-containing droplets could stay liquid until -94 degrees Fahrenheit (-70 degrees Celsius), around the coldest temperature experienced by the lander at the time the images were taken.
What Mars needs is some Global Warming!

Just an observation....
By RoberTx on 2/23/09, Rating: -1
RE: Just an observation....
By Gzus666 on 2/23/2009 12:25:17 PM , Rating: 3
I don't know, TV and Movies tend to be entertaining, funny and witty. Reality on the other hand tends to be filled with people like yourself, so you can see why most choose the former.

RE: Just an observation....
By ninus3d on 2/23/2009 12:25:19 PM , Rating: 3
I use them as an ESCAPE from reality (every now and then) and not really as a substitute :P

RE: Just an observation....
By FITCamaro on 2/23/2009 12:26:37 PM , Rating: 2
I would recommend you pull the boot out of your @$$ that Sean Connery put there and learn to laugh.

RE: Just an observation....
By omnicronx on 2/23/2009 12:39:33 PM , Rating: 2
I would recommend that the first three posters get outdoors more often
Thanks for reminding me, sometimes I forget the three sports I play is not enough outdoor activity.
TV and movies are a poor substitute for reality.
Why must you tread on my dreams? I was just about to get back to the future...

RE: Just an observation....
By dj LiTh on 2/23/2009 12:45:45 PM , Rating: 2
Mmmmm water droplets.......DOHHHHH!

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)
Related Articles
More Evidence of Water and Ice on Mars
February 10, 2009, 2:41 PM
Mars Phoenix Lander Touches Down
May 26, 2008, 12:46 PM

Latest Headlines

Most Popular ArticlesAre you ready for this ? HyperDrive Aircraft
September 24, 2016, 9:29 AM
Leaked – Samsung S8 is a Dream and a Dream 2
September 25, 2016, 8:00 AM
Inspiron Laptops & 2-in-1 PCs
September 25, 2016, 9:00 AM
Snapchat’s New Sunglasses are a Spectacle – No Pun Intended
September 24, 2016, 9:02 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki