Water flows on Mars: Science is refreshing

By EDITORIAL BOARD

There is flowing, liquid water on Mars.

NASA announced this incredible discovery on Monday, and the members of the Editorial Board are supremely excited about it. NASA researchers used the spectrometer on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to finally show that those thin, dark streaks on the planet’s surface are actually running water – super concentrated with salt and other chemicals, but still, it’s flowing water on another planet. We’ve known for years that Mars has polar ice caps and traces of atmospheric water vapor, but large amounts of flowing water were almost impossible to imagine. The next round of investigations around the red planet involve tracing the streams to their source with the goal of determining what it is.

Whether NASA’s next Martian discovery is a small spring or a massive aquifer, it doesn’t matter. We are mostly excited about the possibility of past, present or future Martian life. With the recent discovery, scientists have an invaluable clue in their search for life on the red planet.

Life as we understand can only exist with the presence of water, and that is precisely what makes this discovery so groundbreaking. Currently, there is not any evidence to suggest there is life on any planet in any galaxy in the entire universe except for Earth. This is precisely why it is so unbelievably important that we may, at some point in the future, find life right on our next door neighbor. The implications would be enormous. The next line of scientific experiments would write themselves. We would learn not only a great deal more about Mars, but also about life as a whole. And while water on its own does not guarantee anything, the simple possibility of life, even primitive and microscopic, is incredibly exciting.

Additionally, as we learn more and more about Mars, we increase the number of planets we know very well from one to two. For all we know about our universe, it seems we still don’t have an in-depth understanding of any planet besides our own. That can change with discoveries of this magnitude. For thousands of years, our species has looked up at the stars and tried to make sense of our place in them. Discoveries like this shed just a little bit more light on the dark night sky, and we could not be more excited to see what we learn next.

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