It’s official. NASA have confirmed it. There’s water on Mars…actual water. Within minutes of the announcement, it already felt like we’d entered into a parallel reality where all those science-fiction dreams had become slightly less implausible. Water?! On Mars?! Actual H2o on the surface of the Red Planet?! Whether you’re interested in space or not, it’s a seriously huge deal.
During the summer months on Mars, liquid water runs down canyons and crater walls. These trickles of water, which leave lengthy dark stains on the Martian terrain, reach lengths hundreds of metres in length. If your mind has immediately sprung to that time your mate Rich attempted a sneaky piss behind a dumpster in the Asda car park, but got busted due to the river of urine he created, it’s because the basic theory in that story and this is fairly similar.
These water trails dry up in the autumn when the surface temperatures of Mars drops. Scientists are currently unsure where exactly the water comes from, but current ideas on the matter suggest that it may rise up from underground ice or salty aquifers. Another strain of thought is based on the idea that the moisture is condensing out of the extraordinarily thin Martian atmosphere.
Wherever the water is coming from, it’s got people everywhere excitably shouting excitable-things like “does that mean there’s aliens on Mars?” and “where are all the aliens?!” Incredibly, and we can barely keep our fingers attached to their respective knuckles because of all the excitement that’s going on, this is widely thought to have massively increased the chances of finding life on Mars.
*immediately puts on David Bowie’s ‘Life On Mars’*
Michael Meyer, a lead scientist on Nasa’s Mars exploration programme rather than the man who played Austin Powers in ‘The Spy Who Shagged Me’, said this to the Guardian: “There is liquid water today on the surface of Mars…because of this, we suspect that it is at least possible to have a habitable environment today.”
OK. So Michael Meyer isn’t exactly putting his neck on the line and telling everyone to pack their suitcases, their alien-language phrasebook, and get on the next rocket ship to Mars with that statement. On the flip side, he’s made Star Wars seem more like a documentary than it ever did before.