Scientists have found evidence that salty, liquid water flows on Mars during the Red Planet’s summers, NASA said Monday.
The NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter detected dark streaks that flow down Martian slopes during warmer months, and scientists used the orbiter’s spectrometer to detect hydrated salts that indicate water was involved in the formation of the features.
The presence of liquid water on the planet is a key in the search for life.
“It took multiple spacecraft over several years to solve this mystery, and now we know there is liquid water on the surface of this cold, desert planet,” NASA scientist Michael Meyer said.
The streaks appear to darken and spread during warmer months, when temperatures rise above minus 23 degrees Celsius. The salt on the slopes could act like rock salt used on roads during the winter by lowering the freezing point and allowing water to flow.
It remains unclear from where the water could be originating.
A NASA rover in 2008 confirmed the presence of frozen water on Mars, and scientists believe the planet once contained oceans, lakes and rivers.