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Slopes on Mars caused by ‘briny, flowing water,’ scientists say

Scientists now believe that seasonal slopes on the surface of Mars are the result of salty water that is periodically flowing across the planet’s surface, marking the first clear indication that flowing water exists on the Red Planet.

The discovery, detailed by eight scientists in a paper published in Nature Geoscience, provides strong evidence for the hypothesis that slopes on Mars are caused by present-day water activity, although the origin of the water remains unclear.

The scientists, using NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, reached those conclusions after discovering hydrated salts at four different locations on Mars These salts can lower the freezing point of water and lower the evaporation rate of water, thus increasing the possibility of forming and stabilizing liquid water on the surface of Mars.

Scientists previously found that these slopes on Mars appear and grow incrementally in the downslope direction during warmer seasons when temperatures reach up to 26 degrees Celsius (83.9 Fahrenheit).

“We find evidence for hydrated salts at all four locations in the seasons when recurring slope lineae are most extensive, which suggests that the source of hydration is recurring slope lineae activity,” the scientists said in their paper. “Our findings strongly support the hypothesis that recurring slope lineae form as a result of contemporary water activity on Mars.”

The scientists added: “Water is essential to life as we know it. The presence of liquid water on Mars today has astrobiological, geologic and hydrologic implications and may affect future human exploration.”

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