News Worms
News Worms


Martian water is just sand

Martian water is just sand

On board is the HiRISE camera, which has photographed the Martian surface in great detail. The terminal end of the RSL slopes are identical to the slopes of sand dunes where movement is caused by dry granular flows, he said.

Streaks existed only on the tops of steep slopes, and all settled at the angle of repose the maximum slope at which loose solid material can be piled without slumping. The slopes have been found to be similar to the active sand dunes on earth.

The streaks were originally hailed as a "major scientific discovery" in 2011, with experts claiming the Mars "fingers" were likely left by liquid moving across, or beneath, the planet's surface. Assuming these streaks are from dry matter like dust, it means there likely isn't enough water to support microbial life.

The space agency's top Mars scientist, Michael Meyer, says the latest study does not rule out the presence of water. However, it does not explain the origin of these numerous flowing features or its gradual growth. The feature would generally form during the warm seasons and gradually flows to downhill and eventually dry out during winter. He further added that this new understanding of RSL supports other evidence that shows that Mars today is very dry.

The features in question are dark streaks that show up periodically on Martian hills, known as recurring slope lineae, or RSLs.

One of the reasons for the change is that scientists found that RSL were only visible on steep slopes.

Alfred McEwen, HiRISE Principal Investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson commented, "The RSL don't flow into shallower slopes, and the lengths of these are so closely correlated with the dynamic angle of response, it can't be a coincidence".

"RSL probably form by some mechanism that is unique to the environment of Mars", McEwen says, "so they represent an opportunity to learn about how Mars behaves, which is important for future surface exploration". RSL served as compelling evidence of water on Mars.

Dark features previously proposed as evidence for significant liquid water flowing on Mars have now been identified as granular flows, where sand and dust move rather than liquid water, according to a new article published in Nature Geoscience by the U.S. Geological Survey. Dundas and coauthors examined 151 RSL features at 10 sites.

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