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Image courtesy NASA
The photographs taken by the Mars Global Surveyor has scientists excited about the possibility of water on Mars

A new study of photographs have revealed that bright new deposits observed in gullies on the planet Mars may prove that water carried sediment through them sometime recently, according to NASA.  The U.S. space agency believes it has found "compelling" evidence that liquid water once existed on the surface of Mars.

The recent images were taken by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor space probe.  The discovery is important because it might help prove that the Red Planet has an environment that is favorable for living beings.  Just trying to find remote signs of liquid water on Mars has been a goal among scientists around the world for a number of years.  

The cameras on the Mars Global Surveyor were the first to take images that initially suggested water once flowed on Mars.  Scientists then went and searched valleys in search for conclusive evidence of water flow.  Just like most reports regarding Mars, there is some debate as to whether or not it really was liquid water -- some scientists claim that liquid carbon dioxide may have cut the gullies.

The findings by researchers were published today in the journal Science – NASA held a news conference to announce the results of the study.  The idea that water recently flowed on Mars is another piece of the puzzle that NASA is trying to put together about the still very foreign Red Planet.

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RE: Terraform
By Blood Simple on 12/7/2006 5:19:36 AM , Rating: 2
Mars, unlike earth, does not have a magnetic field. This would make any attempt to pressurise the atmosphere useless as it would be stripped away from the planet by the solar wind. Mars is simply too old and too small!

Ding ding ding, we have a winner. No magnetic field = any attempt at terra forming would be moot. The Atmosphere would just get stripped off into space again. Not to mention Solar radiation is quite lethal when no magnetic field is present to block it. The same fate would befall earth should it lose its field.

Mars had a magnetic field at one point, along with liquid water and an atmosphere. But once its Core cooled and turned solid, field go bye bye. Earth is massive enough that it will be eons before we lose our core and we will have long since destroyed the planet by other means.

RE: Terraform
By masher2 on 12/7/2006 10:11:50 AM , Rating: 2
> "Ding ding ding, we have a winner. No magnetic field = any attempt at terra forming would be moot. The Atmosphere would just get stripped off into space again..."

Err, thats a very slow process. The solar wind is estimated to complete the stripping of the Martian atmosphere in the next one hundred million years. A denser atmosphere would loss mass faster...but its still not a problem for human lifetimes.

The solar wind isn't a terrible problem for human colonization of Mars (or Luna, for that matter, where the flux is much higher).

RE: Terraform
By fk49 on 12/7/2006 4:24:12 PM , Rating: 2
Well actually, solar wind could be a very terrible problem on Mars. It has stripped much of the atmosphere and delivers lethal doses of radiation and plasma since the protective magnetosphere is no longer generated by Mars' core.

However, Mars seems to have 'plates' that are permanently magnetized, and provide a protective field over that area. These spots are relatively safe compared to the rest of unshielded Mars and show potential for further research and perhaps colonization.

RE: Terraform
By masher2 on 12/7/2006 5:21:54 PM , Rating: 2
The solar wind isn't the real problem, its solar flares that are dangerous. However, the radiation from them is easily blocked by lightweight materials. All colonists would need to do is stay inside during solar "bad weather", and they've negated nearly all the risk.

And, as you point out, there are areas of the Martian surface magnetized enough to provide some shielding effect.

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