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Water Could Be Flowing On Mars During Warm Seasons

Update Date: Feb 13, 2014 09:28 AM EST

The possibility of the water existing on Mars is thought to be an affair of billions of years in the past. However, researchers have found clues about its presence on the planet in the present too, at least during the warm seasons. 

The possibility of the water existing is being derived from the dark features on Martian slopes that are appearing in finger shaped. Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology are examining the patter that appear and disappear seasonally. 

"We still don't have a smoking gun for existence of water in RSL, although we're not sure how this process would take place without water," Lujendra Ojha, a graduate student at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, lead author of two recent RSL studies, said in the press release.

The marks are called recurring slope lineae which snake down some crater walled and other inclines when the temperature rises on the planet. 

Researchers observed 13 RSL sites which were taken by the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM). CRISM is an instrument aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. 

"Just like the RSL themselves, the strength of the spectral signatures varies according to the seasons," Ojha said. "They're stronger when it's warmer and less significant when it's colder."

Other experts believed that the recurring slope lineae were created by water flowing just beneath the Martian surface. Water is also likely to contain salts that lower the freezing point remarkably and allows itself to stay liquid despite frigid Mars temperatures. 

"The fact that RSL occur in a few sites and not others indicates additional unknown factors such as availability of water or salts may play a crucial role in RSL formation," Ojha added in the press release. 

"The flow of water, even briny water, anywhere on Mars today would be a major discovery, impacting our understanding of present climate change on Mars and possibly indicating potential habitats for life near the surface on modern Mars," said MRO project scientist Richard Zurek, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., according to Fox News.

The study is published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters

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