RSL or “recurring slope lineae” moving down Martian slopes might be proof water is flowing on Mars today, if NASA/JPL scientists have correctly interpreted certain data they have analysed of darkening finger-like lines that have been detected moving down on 13 different slopes on a seasonal basis as the temperature rises. These RSL might represent spring and summer salt water flows on the Red Planet, according to NASA/JPL.
The images from NASA of the RSL on Mars were taken on Monday by its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Odyssey orbiter.
Ever since humans looked up at Mars through telescopes and detected what they thought were canals there, we have wondered if Mars might have water, or if the Red Planet might have once had flowing water upon its surface.
Many scientists and science fiction fans have hoped that Mars did have water on the planet, and that it might even now have stores of frozen water, possibly below the surface. However, probably few, if any, of them dared to dream that Mars still had flowing water today. Yet, that could very well be the case.
Are the RSL proof that Mars still has flowing water today?
According to grad student Lujendra Ojha at Georgia Institute of Technology, lead author of two studies about the possibility of there being water on Mars published in the journals Geophysical Research Letters and Icarus, the RSL may not be direct indications that Mars still has flowing water. However, Ojha adds, he and James Wray aren’t sure how the process of fluctuating RSL could “take place without water.”
Ojha and assistant professor James Wray also noted that the RSL images were more abundant some years than others. The dark finger-shaped lines usually last about two months. Ojha stated that if there is water on Mars, it would be close to the surface and it would be very salty. Also, ferric sulfate would bring the melting point of ice down to a lower temperature, and might make water flow, at least during the warmer months, on Mars.
While it might be too cold most of the year on Mars for water to flow, it could be that water might be able to flow there during the warmer months. That’s what the presence of the darkening lines suggests, but even then, during the warmer months, researchers have concluded that the only way water could be flowing on Mars is if it contained some sort of a natural antifreeze.
The antifreeze qualities of the water — if there is, indeed, flowing water on Mars today — are likely the result of the high iron content of the liquid. Scientists know that there is a high iron content there, because they detected it when they layered mineral maps over the area.
The mineral maps appear to indicate that water is flowing on Mars today, though it’s not water in which life as we know it could exist. Rather, it would be more like a brine of water and ferric iron, possibly a ferric sulfate mixture, one which nothing we know of could live in or be sustained by.
Though researchers aren’t yet 100 percent sure that the RSL is proof that there is flowing water on Mars today, they are pretty confident that is the case. If so, it might make the possibility that Mars once had life — and perhaps, still may have life — that much more likely, if some of the water at one time in the history of Mars, or some other place on the planet, was more pure.
Written by: Douglas Cobb
RSL on Mars Video