Researchers have found “the strongest evidence yet” of flowing liquid water on Mars, NASA officials announced Monday. The findings will undoubtedly fuel speculation that some form of life can survive on the planet.
Looking at photography from a NASA probe, scientists discovered mysterious dark streaks running along Martian cliff sides. The streaks appeared more prominently in the warmer months, only to fade when conditions cooled. Digging deeper, researchers found evidence of recently hydrated salts among the streaks, according to a study published in the journal Nature Geoscience. Because those salts are being hydrated, it’s likely there’s liquid water doing the job.
“Something is hydrating these salts, and it appears to be these streaks that come and go with the seasons,” said lead study author Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta in a statement.
Still, many mysterious remain about the Martian water. Scientists still don’t know where it’s even coming from, for one. And while liquid water is often considered a pre-requisite for what we typically consider to be life, there is no guarantee that finding liquid water on Mars means more Earth-shattering news will follow — the Red Planet’s atmosphere and other conditions make it a generally inhospitable place.