Mars water find makes Google Doodle smile for joy

29 Sep 2015

A colour-coded image of Mars taken aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL/Univ. of Arizona

As we continue to ponder the potential for life in the solar system following the first evidence of water found on Mars, today’s Google Doodle suggests the anthropomorphic Red Planet might be as pleased as us.

Looking back now, it seems inevitable that we would one day find evidence of water on Mars given the work that had shown at least the existence of ice on the mostly dry, barren planet.

In 2011, researcher Lujendra Ojha had analysed images from cameras on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and came across what appeared to be streaks covering slopes near the planet’s poles.

At this time, however, despite his suggestions, there was no proof to back his claims that liquid water did indeed exist on Mars, but now after deep analysis we have confirmation of water that is incredibly salty.

For this reason, despite the incredibly harsh temperatures, the water can flow during the planet’s summer months when it passes the -23C temperature.

It will now be up to NASA and the eight researchers who were involved in the groundbreaking study to continue looking into where exactly the water is coming from.

Putting a smile on the harsh planet

So far it appears that the most likely origin is that water contained in Mars’s thin atmosphere is effectively condensing and running down the planet’s polar peaks.

Other suggestions include the possibility of a deep underground aquifer existing underneath the planet holding huge quantities of the salty water, which excretes it during the summer months.

Or even that Martian ice, which has already been discovered, is melting from a similar underground source and rising to the surface.

All-in-all, it appears to offer one of the best examples yet of the possibility of life existing elsewhere in our solar system.

“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,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Programme.

“It seems that the more we study Mars, the more we learn how life could be supported and where there are resources to support life in the future.”

In the meantime, here is Google’s Doodle, which has turned the harsh, cold planet into a warm loveable scamp.


Water on Mars Google Doodle

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic