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Possible streams of water ‘spotted on Mars’

Washington: It’s known that there are frozen water deposits on Mars. Now, it seems that there are seasonal streams of liquid water flowing across the surface of the Red Planet, say astronomers, including an Indian-origin scientist.

In fact, it was US space agency NASA which said that pictures taken from its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft showed finger-like features which may be flows of salty water spilling over the rims of craters.

Lujendra Ojha and colleagues at the University of Arizona now claim that, if confirmed, the discovery could finally help establish whether life could be sustained on Mars.

“I was baffled when I first saw those features. We soon realised they were different from slope streaks that had been observed before. These were highly seasonal and we observed some of them had grown by more than 200 metres in a matter of just two Earth months,” Jha said.

His colleague, Dr Alfred McEwen said the markings were “a mystery now, but a solvable mystery”. “The best explanation we have for these observations so far is a flow of briny water, although this study does not prove that,” he said.

The puzzling markings, which appear on several steep slopes south of the Martian equator, fade in the winter and reappear in the spring. While water may not be seen flowing above ground, the dark clusters could mean the water is underneath the surface, the ‘Daily Express’ online reported.

When the astronomers looked closer, their equipment failed to confirm the presence of water. But Dr McEwen said this could be because the water quickly dries on the surface and happened not to be there when tests were carried out. Alternatively, it might exist but at shallow depths.

The features could be the first definitive evidence of present day liquid water on the Red Planet. If this turns out to be the case the sites may provide a promising hunting ground for signs of life, say the astronomers.

The findings have been published in the latest edition of the ‘Science’ journal.

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