Water on Mars is nothing new. For a while, we've known our sister planet definitely has water frozen in polar ice caps and scientists have also discovered that its surface was once home to a Martian water body bigger than the Atlantic Ocean.
This morning, though, NASA made a major Mars-related announcement: there are signs of liquid water on the planet's present-day surface. Scientists reported the news in a press conference that will undoubtedly fuel speculation as to whether life, if it ever existed on Mars, still exists to this day.
In a paper published by Nature Geoscience, Dr. Alfred S. McEwen, a professor of planetary geology at the University of Arizona, identified evidence of waterlogged molecules in high-resolution images taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. "That's a direct detection of water in the form of hydration of salts," Dr. McEwen said. "There pretty much has to have been liquid water recently present to produce the hydrated salt."
McEwen and team noticed the water in 2011 in the form of dark streaks running down the slopes of craters, canyons and mountains on Mars's surface. These streaks got longer during the summer, faded in cooler temperatures and then appeared again the following year. They named the streaks recurrent slope linae, or R.S.Ls, and thousands of them have been spotted. In order to confirm it was water causing these streaks, "We had to come up with new techniques and novel ways to do analysis of the chemical signature," said Lujendra Ojha, the lead author of the Nature Geoscience article.
The researchers eventually determined the undisputed signs of a hydrated salt at four locations and when the streaks faded, so did the presence of the salt. "It's very definitive there is some sort of liquid water," Mr. Ojha said.
Naturally, everyone's taken to Twitter to share their excitement/opinions/hot takes.
A big sticking point was what this means for travel to Mars.
And it didn't take long for David Bowie to enter the conversation.
Obviously, this sort of news is ripe for jokes.
Luckily we have a pie chart to sum up the conversation.
Follow the conversation live on Twitter with the NASA via Twitter