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Water water everywhere
August 4, 2011 11:16 AM   Subscribe

NASA May Have Discovered Flowing Water on Mars Dark, finger-like features appear and extend down some Martian slopes during late spring through summer, fade in winter, and return during the next spring. Repeated observations have tracked the seasonal changes in these recurring features on several steep slopes in the middle latitudes of Mars' southern hemisphere.
posted by modernnomad (65 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Video.
posted by modernnomad at 11:17 AM on August 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, in a way, Percival Lowell was right?
posted by likeso at 11:25 AM on August 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


Can evaporation-purified, bottled martian water be far behind?
posted by saulgoodman at 11:26 AM on August 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Nice try, NASA, but "maybe water" isn't going to get you a bunch of new spaceships. Jazz it up!
posted by notmydesk at 11:27 AM on August 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


They laughed at me when I put a kayak-carrying roof rack on my spaceship. Fools.
posted by The World Famous at 11:27 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am launching a Class-1 probe... now.
posted by steef at 11:28 AM on August 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


@notmydesk

Oil! That's it! Oil on Mars!
posted by GallonOfAlan at 11:28 AM on August 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


I wonder how much the first glass of Martian water would be worth to the super rich? Probably enough to pay for a few shuttle missions.
posted by codacorolla at 11:28 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


"The best explanation for these observations so far is the flow of briny water...[t]he flows are not dark because of being wet," McEwen [of the University of Arizona, Tucson] said. "They are dark for some other reason."

Rivers of blood. On the bright side, the first astronauts (cosmonauts?) there will sure be surprised.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:30 AM on August 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Maybe we can get Richard Branson to go check it out.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:30 AM on August 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


It rains hydrocarbons on Titan. There are rivers and lakes. Mars is lame.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:30 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Video here.
posted by kenaldo at 11:32 AM on August 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


The story says: yay!
The guy's voice and sad music says: we're about to shoot your dog
posted by DU at 11:33 AM on August 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Venetians to colonize Mars, operate quaint little boats.
posted by zippy at 11:36 AM on August 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


On the bright side, the first astronauts (cosmonauts?) there will sure be surprised.

If anyone is going to be doing this, they'll be either Taikonauts or [Hindi-Word-For-Space]nauts.
posted by griphus at 11:38 AM on August 4, 2011


Even the smallest creeks on earth meander. There's something not quite right about these straight "fingers" of water (or whatever it is).
posted by rocket88 at 11:40 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rivers of blood

Probably from the sailors fighting in the dancehall.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:41 AM on August 4, 2011 [13 favorites]


Even the smallest creeks on earth meander. There's something not quite right about these straight "fingers" of water (or whatever it is).

agreed, it's almost like they're not of this earth.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:51 AM on August 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


(i kid because i love, also because the setup was basically a huge pie cooling on a window and asking me not to leap at it is asking too much)
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:51 AM on August 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


they'll be either Taikonauts or [Hindi-Word-For-Space]nauts.

Apparently it's Antariksh yatri.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:53 AM on August 4, 2011


That wasn't ominous, or anything.
posted by cashman at 11:53 AM on August 4, 2011


Yay!

That just felt like the appropriate response. This is great.
posted by Malice at 12:10 PM on August 4, 2011


Oh sure, we used to inner tube down them Martian finger rivers every simmer. What you gotta do is have one extra inner tube, which is where you keep a cooler of your beer. Tie all them inner tubes together, and just kick back and float. Nothing more relaxing. Mars really is heaven when you experience it like that.

Also, don't pay no nevermind when folks come up to the river shore, waving at you and asking you to join them. They're going to look like your dead loved ones, but they ain't. Trust me, buddy, steer clear of them.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:11 PM on August 4, 2011 [29 favorites]


Can't prove there's flowing water on Mars?

Sounds like a fourth world problem to me...
posted by Mad_Carew at 12:12 PM on August 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Big deal, we got plenty of water here. You're going to have to do better than Mars, to get us into your trap.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:13 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Looks more like seeping water than flowing water to me, but interesting nonetheless, unless it turns out it's a sand-flow thing.
posted by aught at 12:14 PM on August 4, 2011


"I was wondering if you and your brother could take a couple of rovers down to Olympus Mons for us. We'll be there about Sunday noon. "
posted by bondcliff at 12:19 PM on August 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


This link from the previous Weird Tales thread seems relevant here.
posted by showmethecalvino at 12:21 PM on August 4, 2011


Those look more like tracks. Like, these kinds of tracks. Tracks left by rocks that are gliding/rolling/sailing downhill on tiny amounts of ice and liquid something (could be water). Or maybe just sliding, because, you know, its downhill.

Why would they vanish? Dust storms maybe. Why would they reappear? Because its the side of a rocky crater.

Do I get to do a breathless press release now too?

Stupid SBPR.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:26 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do I get to do a breathless press release now too?

Yes, this. I want to see a press release that says "We found water on Mars. Yes godamnit we're sure, there' a %#$# probe there right now, sipping the shit. Now give us a !*$ budget you short sighted, no planning, non scientist jackasses."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:30 PM on August 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


Whoa, exciting news! Cool.
posted by nickyskye at 12:32 PM on August 4, 2011


Now give us a !*$ budget you short sighted, no planning, non scientist jackasses.

So we can dam it or pour industrial waste into it, like all the water on Earth?
posted by b1tr0t at 12:33 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


So we can dam it or pour industrial waste into it, like all the water on Earth?

You're talking nonsense.

We have to get there first, establish a base. Once that's done, then we can ruin the water supply.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:36 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even the smallest creeks on earth meander. There's something not quite right about these straight "fingers" of water (or whatever it is).
posted by rocket88


Well, that isn't really true (we have a ratio to discuss how 'curvy' a river is, actually: sinuosity), although I suppose usually it's a question of scale. The longer the river the more likely you are to develop significant meanders. But of course there's a lot of other variables involved in that too--river channels confined in bedrock in high-relief (mountainous) environments are often straight.

From the looks of it (though it's hard to tell because we're not given an obvious scale and the zooming-in is still difficult to parse) these are pretty short channels that have their tops in sediment and their bottoms in bedrock. I could easily see the bedrock holding a more permanent channel (having been eroded out) and the shifting sediment above it allowing perennial erosion and creation of sediment-floored river channels above the bedrock channels, because the bedrock channel is where the water would be funneled to anyway. In short, it's entirely possible that these are nice, straight 'creeks' and that wouldn't be my biggest puzzle with the evidence we have.

I think it's more interesting that the channels appear to be showing headward migration, meaning the head of the channel moves further and further up the slope. It's an erosive process and I can't help but wonder what exactly the source of this water is... this type of behavior is something you'd expect to see due to precipitation. Are we getting salt-water rain or something here during certain seasons? I guess this lets us stop assuming all of the modern-day precipitation is just frost? It has rained there before.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 12:41 PM on August 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


... although I should also say that it is possible that water from the sub-surface is coming up and flowing as well. Precipitation just seems like a much more simple explanation given that I have no idea what the structure of the bedrock is; if water is coming up from the subsurface there has to be a reason, and knowing nothing about the subsurface, I didn't really want to get into it much.

Plus I was excited that it might still rain on Mars.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 12:45 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Checking the fit of my still-suit today.
posted by dhartung at 12:57 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wikipedia's page on headward erosion, by the way. I don't know why google couldn't find it but I should have double-checked. If it is headward erosion, precipitation would make far more sense than a localized seep, but of course, I don't know. I just have trouble thinking of another possibility that would make such nice, parallel shapes that look a lot like drainages.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 1:02 PM on August 4, 2011


Apollo 16 was sent to the lunar highlands 'cause scientists were quite sure, based on photos and scans, that there would be evidence of the moon's volcanic past. Needless to say, they were wrong.

Send one of those cute probes first, after you do more scans.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:05 PM on August 4, 2011


This is a total derail. I want that front and center.

But the comment earlier about "whatever the Hindi for astronaut is" got me looking at the Wikipedia page for the ISRO (Indian NASA) and - and -

THEIR LOGO IS THE STARFLEET LOGO

INDIA IS BUILDING STARFLEET

WHY DID NOBODY TELL ME ABOUT THIS?!?!?!?!?!?!

!?!?!?
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:19 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


INDIA IS BUILDING STARFLEET

Pakistan begs to differ.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:23 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The dark featureless fingers would appear and extend down her Martian slopes during late spring and linger for the duration of the summer. Come winter they would disappear, only return the next spring. She observed, even tracked, these repeated visits, and found that the steep slopes in the middle latitudes of her southern hemisphere began to eagerly anticipate the recurring seasonal changes.
posted by Kabanos at 1:26 PM on August 4, 2011


Couldn't those patterns be caused by liquefaction of the earth mars? Marsquakes? Landslides triggered by strong winds?

It's not like there's anything (tree roots, etc.) keeping those hills stable.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:28 PM on August 4, 2011


For what it's worth, apparently they're going with Vyomanaut, from the Sanskrit for "sky/space."
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:30 PM on August 4, 2011


Metafilter: a huge pie cooling on a window and asking me not to leap at it
posted by theredpen at 1:51 PM on August 4, 2011


It rains hydrocarbons on Titan. There are rivers and lakes. Mars is lame.

To be fair, though, a nice spring day on Titan smells like the solar system's biggest robot fart.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:57 PM on August 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


It is sad that Mars is getting more water than Texas.
posted by Renoroc at 2:18 PM on August 4, 2011


Ah, they found the river Iss at last. Though not quite what ERB described, I hope they use the name...
posted by talos at 2:38 PM on August 4, 2011


Dr. Manhattan just put that there to fuck with us.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 2:51 PM on August 4, 2011


Phil Plait: More evidence of flowing water on Mars!
posted by homunculus at 3:00 PM on August 4, 2011


Flowing water? Excellent. Now colonists will have somewhere to pump their effluent.
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:46 PM on August 4, 2011


they'll be either Taikonauts or [Hindi-Word-For-Space]nauts.

Apparently it's Antariksh yatri.


I prefer Aaloknauts.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:49 PM on August 4, 2011


Whoever narrated that should do the narration for Ancient Astronauts. His average guy casual voice would add a lot of credibility to it.
posted by Liquidwolf at 4:54 PM on August 4, 2011


Apparently it's Antariksh yatri.

Sounds spicy.

It's not like there's anything (tree roots, etc.) keeping those hills stable.

Low reddish bushes with deep roots for the dry season?
posted by codswallop at 5:41 PM on August 4, 2011


"Don't drink the water. Don't even touch it. Not one drop."

RUN!

posted by Space Kitty at 6:35 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


they'll be either Taikonauts or [Hindi-Word-For-Space]nauts.

Apparently it's Antariksh yatri.

I prefer Aaloknauts.


Antariksh yaatri is a literal translation, perfectly acceptable, but the existing Sanskrit word is 'aakaashagami'. Some vernaculars prefer the term 'vyomagaami'. I'm partial to this, for reasons that will be clear soon.

Apparently, each space programme now has a "~naut" for its space-travellers. Many suggestions were given for the Indian one too, many punning the Sanskrit word "nath", or "lord/ protector" with naut. Henxe you have such suggestions as Brahmanaut, Gagannauth and Viswanaut, and indeed Aaloknaut, all legit/regular Indian names if the suffix was "nath". ISRO has apparently taken an official position on this; the now official Ind-glish term for a space-traveller sent via the Indian Space programme is vyomanaut. I like this tremendously because it not just reflects current usage in the vernaculars quite accurately, but it also (perhaps inadvertently) invokes memories of a forgotten aspect of Indian culture, that of sunday morning sci-fi on state television
posted by the cydonian at 8:18 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Opportunity and Spirit were vey successful, mobile designs. We should stop engineering totally new rovers at billions of dollars each and build dozens of these things. We would learn tons of stuff and start to gain some expeience. Instead we seem to throw out our successful exploration designs to line e pockets of defense contractors.
posted by humanfont at 9:46 PM on August 4, 2011


Why are we trying to find water on Mars when we already have it on the earth? We have issues of water scarcity on earth already and its better to fund scientific studies involving environmental conservation and innovation.

I have a problem with humans thinking of moving and "colonizing" extraterrestrial bodies. Instead of spending vast amounts of money on scientific missions that are trying to break new frontiers in science and technology, why don't we try and solve the environmental issues that we have on the earth(We don't have to spend billions of dollars/euros/yens funding spaceships to get there in the first place)?

I think the funding for space agencies and especially missions that are trying to find life beyond the earth and the solar system should not be funded at all. Of course, some of the technological developments might lead to better applications on our planet but we can do that without going to space. Are we trying to run away from our problems?

Thank you.
posted by snowliontiger at 11:51 PM on August 4, 2011


INDIA IS BUILDING STARFLEET

Someone check the candidate roster for this guy.
posted by zippy at 3:27 AM on August 5, 2011


All your creeks are belong to us!


(I figured it's been a while)
posted by spicynuts at 3:32 AM on August 5, 2011


Long-range Space Travel has huge implications for environmentalism. You'd have to be very careful not to despoil your environment when it consists of a metal building you have to stay in for a few years.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 3:34 AM on August 5, 2011


why don't we try and solve the environmental issues that we have on the earth(We don't have to spend billions of dollars/euros/yens funding spaceships to get there in the first place)?

Why can't we walk and chew gum at the same time? What is it with people who want to make sure everything is perfect before we move on to something else?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:14 AM on August 5, 2011


I think the funding for space agencies and especially missions that are trying to find life beyond the earth and the solar system should not be funded at all. Of course, some of the technological developments might lead to better applications on our planet but we can do that without going to space. Are we trying to run away from our problems?

Thank you.


First: You're welcome.

Second: I'm glad that you think that, but I think we should. How about that?
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:45 AM on August 5, 2011


Why are we trying to find water on Mars when we already have it on the earth?

Is that a serious question? Do you think they are attempting to find water on Mars so they can ship it back here so we can make some delicious Mars-tinis?
posted by modernnomad at 9:27 AM on August 5, 2011


Um, Mars-tinis are really good, dude. Particularly if you set the mood by listening to the dulcet tones of Dean Mars-tin.
posted by The World Famous at 9:29 AM on August 5, 2011


You mean someday our great grand lounge lizards, will drink Mars-tinis in their Mars-kinis, at the Mitt Romney Mars-try club, while the Native Martians genetically cultured, make Martian-ooze crude in long pipes, to fund Mars-try Club dinner cruises to the two small Moons?

Rio Tinto is already involved in the exploration of the planet formerly known as Mars, which will later be known as the barely aggregated rubble pile, farther out.
posted by Oyéah at 5:51 PM on August 5, 2011


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