Blobs of something "growing" on the Phoenix lander's legs.

More Researchers Say Liquid Water Present on Mars Now

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

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Finding perchlorates on Mars was not only surprising for the Phoenix lander science team, it also has created a bit of a rift among the researchers. In March, Ian reported on one scientist who used strictly photographic evidence to say that blobs appearing on the lander’s legs were actually water. Other scientists, however, including principal investigator Peter Smith were dubious about the “water on Mars now” claims. But now, a group of researchers at the University of Arkansas say they have now demonstrated a potential stable liquid on present-day Mars in the immediate environment of the lander.

The salts formed from perchlorates discovered at the Phoenix landing site act as “anti-freeze” and have the potential to be found in a liquid solution under the temperature and pressure conditions on present-day Mars, say professor Vincent F. Chevrier and graduate students Jennifer Hanley and Travis S. Altheide. Their research is published in the current issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

“Under real, observed Martian conditions, you can have a stable liquid,” said Chevrier.

The researchers studied the properties of sodium and magnesium perchlorates, salts detected by the Phoenix lander, under the temperature, pressure and humidity conditions found at the landing site. The discovery of perchlorates on Mars by the Phoenix mission surprised scientists – the compounds are rare on Earth, found mostly in extremely arid environments such as the Atacama Desert in Chile.

This image was taken by the Phoenix land on the 97th day of the mission.  Credit: NASA/JPL

This image was taken by the Phoenix land on the 97th day of the mission. Credit: NASA/JPL



The scientists studied the properties of these salts at varying temperatures using the Andromeda Chamber in the W.M. Keck Laboratory for Space Simulation – a chamber that can imitate the pressure and atmospheric conditions found on Mars. They also performed thermodynamic calculations to determine the state of salt and water combinations on the Martian surface and to see if there was any potential for liquid to be found.

The extreme temperatures found on Mars typically lead to either crystallization or evaporation of water, making it difficult to imagine that water could be found in liquid form. However, salts have been shown to lower the freezing point of water – which is why street crews use salt on the roads to melt ice, Hanley said. Some salts, like perchlorates, lower the freezing point substantially. It turns out that the temperature for the liquid phase of magnesium perchlorate – 206 degrees Kelvin – is a temperature found on Mars at the Phoenix landing site. Based on temperature findings from the Phoenix lander, conditions would allow this perchlorate solution to be present in liquid form for a few hours each day during the summer.

“The window for liquid is very small,” Hanley said. Nevertheless, this finding further supports the possibility of finding life on Mars.

“You don’t necessarily need to have a lot of water to have life,” Chevrier said. “But you need liquid water at some point.”

Source: University of Arkansas


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HelloBozos
Member
May 26, 2009 8:16 AM

A good survivalist could collect that water Easy….could get more if Mars like earth an the waters under the dirt

ioresult
Member
May 26, 2009 11:02 AM

Perchlorates can also be used as a component for solid rocket fuel. That could help a sample return mission…

Jon Hanford
Member
Jon Hanford
May 26, 2009 11:46 AM

I would think that a natural followup experiment would be to see if any Earth organisms can be found that can thrive in this solution (of water AND perchlorates) at the temperatures and pressures found on the Martian surface. Finding certain extremophiles here on Earth that can tolerate this aqueous salt solution at Martian temperatures and pressures would go a long way to bolster theories that life on Mars is possible.

wayno@oz
Member
[email protected]
May 26, 2009 6:42 PM
The answer to life on mars will be found when humans actually explore in person. Until then, rovers and probes can only tell us what we already know. Conditions for life where once ideal on Mars but they no longer exist. That is not to say that life no longer exist there. With the discovery of extremophile life here on Earth it would be a sure bet to say that, If life did exist on Mars at one stage in the past, even microbial, it would continue to eek out an existence where ever possible. In the end though, even if microbial life is found, will that stop humans from colonizing the planet? I feel that it may… Read more »
vino
Member
vino
May 26, 2009 8:48 PM

The first question that comes to my mind is that, if the liquid water is present only for a few hours everyday, how can any lifeform, even the very basic like a chain of amino acids form? And even if they can be brought by some meteorites, i thought for the formation of life you need sustained conditions….I am too confused to say that life can form in these conditions….But who knows….Nature has suprised us in many forms….

wayno@oz
Member
[email protected]
May 26, 2009 11:28 PM
Vino, your are correct in wondering how life could form in these weird conditions, and i suspect that it doesnt, but the finding that liquid water can be present in today’s climate and conditions means that it could be more abundant in other area’s. It may be that just below the surface of a crater on Mars water lies in a liquid form and regardless of how acidic or alkaline it is, if Mars once had microbial life it would surely be living in these area’s. These “craters of life” would be the sustained enviromental conditions needed for life to do what it does best, survive. Humans can only guess what life needs to survive by looking at… Read more »
Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
May 27, 2009 12:57 AM
“The window for liquid is very small,” I’m sure it is, in general. But there are or have been active geology or biology on Mars (methane sources), which either of them would mean liquids by way of heat sources. Also, I seem to remember that there was earlier speculation of brines, which concluded that Valles Marineris specific conditions opens up the window. And VM is not an insignificant feature. “supports the possibility of finding life on Mars” Certainly. To touch on other comments here: Early Mars had a different, some think benign climate. And we know from Earth that life get started very easily and quickly. Some theorists suspects that a mere 10 ky was an upper bound… Read more »
Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
May 27, 2009 1:28 AM
Isn’t it interesting that such a recent find of perchlorates touches on the possibilities of Mars technologies/habitability? The comments reflects that plenty. In my view it is a disaster as regards human habitability. If Mars dust was seen as a problem earlier, it certainly is a much more difficult stumble block now. Phoenix found that the dust is very clingy when wet. (That could help also help catching it of course.) And AFAIU lethally poisonous to Earth organisms with a central nervous system by way of a high perchlorate content that we haven’t evolved to handle. With any luck, it is regional. “That could help a sample return mission…” I thought so too! OTOH I just read a… Read more »
Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
May 27, 2009 1:58 AM

“thermogeneration power elements”

Oh, duh! Sorry to put up a third comment after two long ones, but I of all people shouldn’t do this mistake even in english. Guess the original blog post I read was fuzzy on technique so I took it out of memory instead of reflecting on what I wrote.

I mean thermoelectric power elements, of course, or thermocouples for short.

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