There is Water on Mars
September 28, 2015 8:21 AM   Subscribe

The New York Times is reporting that NASA is about to announce the discovery of "definitive signs of liquid water on the surface of present-day Mars."
posted by schmod (109 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
With liquid water present, I estimate an over 50% chance that life still survives. Just microbial, probably. But still...
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:23 AM on September 28, 2015 [5 favorites]




Nestle prepping rockets in 3...2...1...
posted by entropicamericana at 8:27 AM on September 28, 2015 [37 favorites]


"definitive signs of liquid water on the surface of present-day Mars."

Meh, Enceladaus has water geysers at its south pole and a global liquid ocean. That's vastly more interesting than "dark narrow streaks."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:29 AM on September 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


Here is the un-shortened version of the URL in the main post, with tracking removed:
Signs of Liquid Water Found on Surface of Mars
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 8:32 AM on September 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


NASA Taboolas…

"You won't believe what we found on the surface of Mars!"

(Number 6 blew ours minds)

16 ad soaked pages later…"meh".
posted by bobloblaw at 8:35 AM on September 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


I can't connect to either NASA TV or the USstream site...
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:35 AM on September 28, 2015


Sometimes I think this is a terrible time to be alive. And then you get news like this and I think, how wonderful to be around to hear about this, and how amazing that we can know information of this sort from so far away.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:36 AM on September 28, 2015 [14 favorites]


The flows only appear when the surface of Mars rises above -23C. The water can run in such frigid conditions because the salts lower the freezing point of water, keeping it liquid far below 0C.

Salt water freezes at -21C and I would guess that the phase transition to liquid is exothermic so it's possible, but still nothing like beach weather.
posted by three blind mice at 8:36 AM on September 28, 2015


The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, I say.
posted by Damienmce at 8:39 AM on September 28, 2015 [11 favorites]


NASA TV on YouTube
posted by schmod at 8:39 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


What's the big deal, phhbt. We've already got that here. Hell, the stuff's falling out of the sky here even as I speak!

(Hamburger, of course. This is big, fantastic news and it's a huge privilege to be alive at a time when discoveries like this are being made. Now we need to start being a little more cautious about thrashing around the place because there may be delicate ecosystems there.)
posted by saulgoodman at 8:43 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


A flowing liquid on Mars. I hope it's gin.
posted by Wordshore at 8:45 AM on September 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


This is fascinating but I feel like I'm learning a lot more from the Youtube livestream comments. Things like "NORTH KOREA IS THE BEST KOREA" and "!MARS WATER ILLEGAL".
posted by selfnoise at 8:45 AM on September 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


What's the big deal, phhbt. We've already got that here. Hell, the stuff's falling out of the sky here even as I speak!

Can your science explain why it rains? Hmm?
posted by Atreides at 8:45 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mars has flowing rivers of briny water, NASA satellite reveals (NewsHour, PBS)

(cribbed from an amusing comment on FB)

Water flowing underground
Into the blue again
After the money's gone
Once in a lifetime
Water flowing underground

Same as it ever was... Same as it ever was... Same as it ever was...
posted by mwhybark at 8:47 AM on September 28, 2015 [17 favorites]


YOU IDIOTS HAVE BEEN BUYING UP LAND ON THE MOON!

BUT NOT I!

I LAID CLAIM TO ALL OF MARS!

THEY CALL ME A FOOL BUT WHOSE LAUGHING NOW?!

THEIR FACES WILL BE AS RED AS THE PLANET!
posted by I-baLL at 8:52 AM on September 28, 2015 [4 favorites]




A flowing liquid on Mars. I hope it's gin.

That sounds like a line from a Sparks Nevada/Beyond Belief crossover episode, as spoken by Sadie Doyle! Clink!

posted by Celsius1414 at 8:53 AM on September 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


Signs of Liquid Water Found on Earth

Despite its reputation as a forebodingly dreary, desolate, dopey, and drought-stricken place, Earth seems a little bit wetter today. Scientists have reported definitive signs of liquid water on the surface of present-day Canada, a finding that will fuel speculation that life, if it ever arose there, could persist for some time. "I think this gives us a focus where we should look more closely," siad Alfred Swimmins, professor of planetary geology.

In a paper published on an obscure web site known as Nature Geoscience, Dr. Swimmins and other scientists identified waterlogged molecules known as perchlorates in readings of soil samples taken from a small pool of brownish liquid found at the side of a dirt road. "That's a direct detection of water in the form of hydration of salts," Dr. Swimmins exclaimed. "There pretty much has to have been liquid water recently present somewhere nearby to produce this stuff, we think."

By "recently," he said he meant "days, weeks, centuries, something of that order. Not millions of years or anything. Could have been just seconds ago."

Rumours of rivers, lakes, and maybe even an ocean have been discussed for billions of years, and scientists have long known that large amounts of water probably exist. There have been fleeting hints of proof of this theory, but none had proved convincing.

Liquid water is considered one of the essential ingredients for life, and definitive proof of its presence on Earth will come as a relief to the many people who live there.
posted by sfenders at 8:55 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm both laughing and crying and angry all at the same time, resurrexit. Thank goodness it's only The Onion.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:55 AM on September 28, 2015


All this two days too late to designate a certain David Bowie song as one's jam...
posted by acb at 8:56 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


days, weeks, centuries, something of that order

I get the whole "blink of an eye in geological time" bit, but that's quite a spread.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:58 AM on September 28, 2015


People, haven't we learned anything from Ray Bradbury? That quiet, desolate world lures you in with just a trickle of water and before you know it your eyes and skin and bones change, you forget the old human languages, and finally you're moving into the deserted old cities on the mountantops, wondering where all those strange people from Earth went to...
All was water, quiet and deep, all was peace. He felt the steady, slow current drift him easily.

If I lie here long enough, he thought, the water will work and eat away my flesh until the bones show like coral. Just my skeleton left. And then the water can build on that skeleton--green things, deep-water things, red things, yellow things. Change. Change. Slow, deep, silent change. And isn't that what it is up there?

He saw the sky submerged above him, the sun made Martian by atmosphere and time and space.

Up there, a big river, he thought, a Martian river, all of us lying deep in it, in our pebble houses, in our sunken boulder houses, like crayfish hidden, and the water washing away our old bodies and lengthening the bones and--

He let himself drift up through the soft light.

--from "Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed"
posted by informavore at 9:02 AM on September 28, 2015 [20 favorites]


Next time NASA says they've got BIG NEWS coming up in a few days, it had better be a "I'll always remember where I was and what I was doing at the moment I heard the news" kind of big news.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:08 AM on September 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


Time to get David Tennant into a space suit.
posted by lownote at 9:11 AM on September 28, 2015 [13 favorites]


I think flowing water on the surface of Mars is big new. But I guess most people (notably the main-stream media who go to these) have the patience of a six-year old. "Are we there yet? I wanna be there yet! Why aren't we there yet?"
posted by benito.strauss at 9:13 AM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


BTW, you can read Emily Lakdawalla's Twitter stream as a good supplement. E.g.:
Oh god first question asks whether there's life on Mars today. WE DON'T KNOW AND WE DON'T HAVE INSTRUMENTS THERE THAT CAN TELL US
posted by benito.strauss at 9:17 AM on September 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


I thought we'd already assumed the streaks had to be liquid water since, and maybe I'm wrong again, we were pretty certain about solid water being a thing. Even so, I hoped the announcement would be about life even while assuming it would be this. It's still big, but do they really need this, "NASA GONE DROP THE HOTTEST SCIENCE OF 2015 IN TWO DAYS Y'ALL!" stuff for something that was already assumed?

Maybe it's my mushy millennial attention span but, yes, I want the definitive proof of life already! I want the space-dolphin Atlantean refugees on Enceladus!
posted by cmoj at 9:18 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Next time NASA says they've got BIG NEWS coming up in a few days, it had better be a "I'll always remember where I was and what I was doing at the moment I heard the news" kind of big news.

Well, I've always imagined that sort of BIG NEWS to be "everyone on Earth is about to die" so I'm not so much looking forward to that.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:23 AM on September 28, 2015 [10 favorites]


It's not the news, it's the hokey ”after the break" buildup they used. They've had pretty convincing photographic evidence for seasonal melting (of some kind) for about a decade now, so while this is important...it's kind of expected.

The kid in me is hanging on for fossil evidence of complex life.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:24 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


but do they really need this, "NASA GONE DROP THE HOTTEST SCIENCE OF 2015 IN TWO DAYS Y'ALL!" stuff for something that was already assumed?

We can assume there is microbial life in the currently flowing salt water on Mars. Will they need this "NASA GONE DROP, etc." when/if life is discovered on Mars? That will be big news.
posted by Rob Rockets at 9:26 AM on September 28, 2015


[URL swapped out, please avoid using link shorteners on MetaFilter since they don't add utility here and obscure sources somewhat.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:26 AM on September 28, 2015


Poor NASA, dependent on impatient children for funding.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:27 AM on September 28, 2015 [12 favorites]


The BBC coverage of this raises an interesting catch-22. If we think there might be Martian microbial life in these areas, planetary protection rules prohibit our landing spacecraft there (we can't guarantee sterility of the spacecraft to prevent contamination). Thus future missions to detect life will only be allowed to land in places we are fairly sure there is no life to detect.
posted by notme at 9:29 AM on September 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


More flowing water on the surface of Mars than on the surface of California. We live in strange times, on strange planets.
posted by Wordshore at 9:29 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Emily Lakdawalla ‏
But I think it's inconsistent to have severe planetary protection restrictions while planning to send dirty, microbe-ridden humans to Mars.
These planetary protection rules are new to me and the second-most interesting thing I've learned from this.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:32 AM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


BTW, you can read Emily Lakdawalla's Twitter stream as a good supplement.

From which I learned that NASA has an elaborate Planetary Protection policy which means the discovery of water might limit the regions the 2020 probe could explore.
posted by straight at 9:34 AM on September 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


I've been kind of expecting this since I found out a few weeks ago that the atmospheric pressure on Mars is very near the triple point of water:
"First of all, you have to remember that the average atmospheric pressure on Mars is very close to the triple point of water," explains Richard Hoover, an astrobiologist at the Marshall Space Flight Center. "You only have to increase the pressure a little bit to make liquid water possible."

The 'triple point' is the combination of pressure (6.1 millibars) and temperature (0.01 °C) at which water can exist simultaneously in all three states: a solid, a liquid and a gas (see the 'phase diagram' below). ...
And NASA has been expecting it for a lot longer than that, certainly, since the article I pulled that from dates to 2000.

It requires a few more steps to make an argument that the atmospheric pressure on Mars is probably maintained near the triple point pressure by the presence of liquid water -- and that would mean lots of liquid water somewhere -- but I'd guess that's what's happening.
posted by jamjam at 9:38 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Poor NASA, dependent on impatient children for funding.

Actually, the opposite is true. They're dependent on complacent old guys. If us "impatient children" were in charge if it, NASA would swap budgets with defense and we'd be debating the legality of sentient-but-interspecies marriage by now.
posted by cmoj at 9:38 AM on September 28, 2015 [18 favorites]


The BBC coverage of this raises an interesting catch-22. If we think there might be Martian microbial life in these areas, planetary protection rules prohibit our landing spacecraft there (we can't guarantee sterility of the spacecraft to prevent contamination). Thus future missions to detect life will only be allowed to land in places we are fairly sure there is no life to detect.

Then obviously we have to fix that rule because finding actual microbial life would quite literally be the most exciting science news in pretty much forever. Maybe second to "Zog find ways make fire. Number six blow your mind". I get the idea about contamination blah blah blah, but come on.

We've sent missions to Mars that, among other things, looked for life. Now that we actually have a good place to send them we're all "Nuh uh".
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:39 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wordshore: A flowing liquid on Mars. I hope it's gin.

One evening as the sun went down
And the celestial fires were burning,
Down the trail came a robo' hiking,
And he said, boys, I'm not turning;

I'm headed for a land that's far away
Beside the Martian fountains
So come with me, we'll go and see
The Big Red Planet Mountains.

In the Big Red Planet Mountains,
There's a land that's fair and bright,
Where the Mars Bars grow on bushes
And you sleep out every night.

Where the shuttles all are empty
And the sun shines every day
On the birds and the bees
And the alien trees
The lemonade springs
Where the redbird sings
In the Big Red Planet Mountains.

In the Big Red Planet Mountains
All the cops have wooden legs
And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth
And the hens lay soft-boiled eggs

Them alien trees are full of fruit
And the barns are full of hay
Oh I'm bound to go
Where there ain't no snow
Where the rain don't fall
The winds don't blow
In the Big Red Planet Mountains.

In the Big Red Planet Mountains
You never change your socks
And the little streams of alcohol
Come trickling down the rocks

The rocket men have to tip their hats
And the security bots are blind
There's a lake of stew
And of sloe gin too
You can paddle all around them
In a big canoe
In the Big Red Planet Mountains.

In the Big Red Planet Mountains,
The jails are made of tin.
And you can walk right out again,
As soon as you are in.

There ain't no short-handled shovels,
No axes, saws nor picks,
I'm bound to stay
Where you sleep all day,
Where they hung the jerk
That invented work
In the Big Red Planet Mountains ...

I'll see you all this coming fall
In the Big Red Planet Mountains.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:40 AM on September 28, 2015 [16 favorites]


I get the idea about contamination blah blah blah, but come on.

The planetary policy ensures that the "come on" mentality doesn't ruin the chance for life on Mars millions of years from now.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:41 AM on September 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Poor NASA, dependent on impatient children for funding.

If the children were taken for vanilla ice cream for years, then were subjected to -- "Guess what! On Monday, there'll be huge news on the ice cream front!" -- and Monday rolls around, and it's vanilla ice cream again... Well, you might understand the whelm being at low levels.

And I write this as someone who adores vanilla ice cream, both real and allegorical.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:47 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Helen@rillquiet is tweeting as follows:

Liquid water flows on Mars, doo dah, doo dah,
We found this out with robot cars, oh the doo dah day.

Now I'm going to have that running through my head all day ...
posted by Paul Slade at 9:50 AM on September 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Wikipedia has a good summary of the discovery of perchlorate on Mars. Some microbes on Earth eat it, but it also complicates Curiosity's experiments that search for life.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:53 AM on September 28, 2015


Then obviously we have to fix that rule because finding actual microbial life would quite literally be the most exciting science news in pretty much forever.

Hmm. How to weigh the importance of protecting an extraterrestrial ecosystem from contamination and possible destruction vs. our desire to have some really exciting news?
posted by straight at 9:56 AM on September 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


Real proof of water on Mars is pretty amazing! Sure, I guess one could assume everything on an alien planet works the same way as it does on Earth, and therefore this is "obvious". But I think this news was entirely worth the (very brief) hype.

(Here's a link to the NASA article- not sure I saw this linked above, although it was probably referenced on NASA TV)
posted by Secretariat at 10:00 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


The reason this is big news is because it's direct detection rather than guessing. From TFA:

"Scientists suspected that water played a critical role in the phenomenon, perhaps similar to the way concrete darkens when wet, with no change in the shape of the surface, and returns to its original color when dry. But that was just an educated guess."

vs

""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.” By “recently,” Dr. McEwen said he meant “days, something of that order.”"
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:01 AM on September 28, 2015


As I understand it, the visual evidence of water channels and such provided evidence that free water perhaps had been on the surface of Mars at sometime in the past, but, while increasing the likely hood of free water, wasn't considered definitive proof.

This is direct. This is the difference between seeing a unicorn and just finding the bodies of impaled knights in the forest.
posted by bonehead at 10:08 AM on September 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


> They're dependent on complacent old guys.

I wish complacent old folks were enough to fund NASA well. If they did then NASA wouldn't have to try to hype-up their finding like they did here. But they don't, so NASA tries and too often fumbles it, like they did here.

I wish they had someone on staff who could tell them "Listen, unless it's life on Mars people don't get excited about scientific findings; they only get excited when there's equipment involved (see various rovers) or cool pictures." I'm glad they're promoting themselves — I just wish they'd do it more smartly.

And I had a witty riposte about if millenials were in charge they'd blow the whole budget on Star Wars mini-figs, but of course that's not true. The "impatient children" I referred to are aged from 20 to 80, and some of the researchers presenting there looked millenial-aged. I didn't intend to refer to biological age, just the mindset.

EmilyL captured it well in her retweets:
Emily Lakdawalla ‏@elakdawalla

And here we get to the real motivation for the hype :)
Alexandra Witze @alexwitze
And that concludes the #MarsAnnouncement presser, aka @NASA justification for its future mission planning.
and
Emily Lakdawalla ‏@elakdawalla
Agreed,
Chanda (王嬋娟) @IBJIYONGI
@elakdawalla one problem we have recruiting people into stem is they get here expecting that it's all MAJOR DISCOVERIES
posted by benito.strauss at 10:11 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Emily Lakdawalla is always a pro follow on Twitter. Her work with the Pluto images has been fascinating.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:15 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I gotta remember not to read comments on space stuff because this is exciting news and I am happy. No reason to be jaded about this one. Go NASA!
posted by agregoli at 10:20 AM on September 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Same as it ever was... Same as it ever was... Same as it ever was...

You may find yourself

On a remote desert-like planet

And you may ask yourself

Well...is there water?
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:21 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Water On Mars!! California Politely Asks For Some.
posted by LooseFilter at 10:21 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I gotta remember not to read comments on space stuff because this is exciting news and I am happy. No reason to be jaded about this one. Go NASA!

Commenting just put this thread in your recent activity, FYI.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:24 AM on September 28, 2015


Water On Mars!! California Politely Asks For Some.

Fuck asking politely; we should invade them and take their water!
posted by acb at 10:24 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


MARS NEEDS TOWELS
posted by Spatch at 10:26 AM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]




Meh, Enceladaus has water geysers at its south pole and a global liquid ocean. That's vastly more interesting than "dark narrow streaks."

Previously.
posted by homunculus at 10:32 AM on September 28, 2015


Listen, unless it's life on Mars people don't get excited about scientific findings

Even when it is life on Mars, I think the level of enthusiasm that people will actually have for it can easily be exaggerated. It'll be big news in the same way as it was that time they discovered things living on hydrogen sulphide around hydrothermal vents. Remember when that discovery changed the world forever, re-shaped everyone's ideas about what the universe is like, and awakened the human race to new insight as to what life is about? It happens so often these days.
posted by sfenders at 10:36 AM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


> I gotta remember not to read comments on space stuff because this is exciting news and I am happy. No reason to be jaded about this one. Go NASA!

As an excited science person, I feel a little bit of a responsibility to comment excitedly and balance out the jaded comments, rather than be excited elsewhere. Lots of mefites love science, dang it!
posted by Secretariat at 10:50 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


MARS NEEDS TOWELS

[Obligatory HHGTG quote here.]
posted by entropicamericana at 10:52 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Damit, this is very very cool!
posted by From Bklyn at 10:52 AM on September 28, 2015


So... how's the water get up to the top, to flow down?


In Earth, that's done via "precipitation"

I was under the impression that Mars doesn't have enough of an atmosphere for weather.
posted by alex_skazat at 11:00 AM on September 28, 2015


Even when it is life on Mars, I think the level of enthusiasm that people will actually have for it can easily be exaggerated.

But, that would absolutely prove that life exists on somewhere other than Earth, which means life could exists anywhere else in the UNIVERSE. How long ago was it that even that notion was almost apocryphal?

To me, that idea is obvious, albeit without a shred of data, just theory. And theory is nice, and the numbers are in my favor. But still.
posted by alex_skazat at 11:03 AM on September 28, 2015


Even when it is life on Mars, I think the level of enthusiasm that people will actually have for it can easily be exaggerated.

Unless it has tentacles and shoots laser beams, people will be underwhelmed, because we've seen so much more in fiction.

Microscopic life just won't impress most of humanity.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:11 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Even when it is life on Mars, I think the level of enthusiasm that people will actually have for it can easily be exaggerated.

That's only to be expected given the number of cat videos such news will have to compete with.

("I love that dirty water ... NASA you're my pal.")
posted by octobersurprise at 11:13 AM on September 28, 2015


If an alien doesn't have bilateral symmetry, big eyes, and, ideally, tuck its pseudopodia in really cutely, most people won't give a fuck about it.
posted by bonehead at 11:14 AM on September 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


Surely the most exciting thing about finding extraterrestrial life would be how it differs from life on Earth. If it uses DNA/RNA, that would be a huge boost to the theory that Earth life originated with some kind of panspermia. If it doesn't use DNA/RNA, then, wow, how does it work?
posted by straight at 11:16 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Microscopic life just won't impress most of humanity.

I think it would, but it is lacking one critical piece of information - how similar is the microscopic life on Mars to that of Earth.

Either answer ("Life unlike any on Earth" or "Stunning similarity between microbes on Earth and Mars") would probably make waves, but until then the news is quite a bit less dramatic.

--

On preview: what 'straight' and 'bonehead' said
posted by rosswald at 11:17 AM on September 28, 2015


Finding life on another planet - and not just any planet, but literally the second closest possible planet - would be huge. If life is here and there, it's probably pretty much everywhere.
posted by jetsetsc at 11:22 AM on September 28, 2015


With 0.6% of the atmospheric pressure of Earth, how does this water not boil away?
posted by furtive at 11:38 AM on September 28, 2015


That's some timing! The Martian couldn't have asked for better viral marketing.
posted by Itaxpica at 11:41 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Between Saving Private Ryan and The Martian, Matt Damon shouldn't leave the house.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:45 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


furitive,
This is my understanding and I may be incorrect.

The liquid water is a very salty solution from the perchlorates in the martian soil. The water exists in a temperature sweet spot above the salt water freezing temp and the lowered boiling point. It flows downhill and rests at the bottom where it eventually warms up to the point of evaporation. Those stripes on craters and hillsides they're showing are the results of drops of salt water flowing downhill and evaporating once the sun warms them.
posted by cmfletcher at 11:48 AM on September 28, 2015


Between his comments this week and last week, Damon should definitely not leave the house.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:53 AM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


@elakdawalla one problem we have recruiting people into stem is they get here expecting that it's all MAJOR DISCOVERIES

Just what we need, a generation of "entitled" scientists.
posted by sammyo at 12:05 PM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Flowing water on the surface of Mars? Excellent. Now the first human colonists will have somewhere to tip their effluent. Fingers crossed there are a couple of species up there we can make extinct!
posted by turbid dahlia at 12:27 PM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Step up your game, Mars! The internet remains unimpressed. I mean I know you're trying to show up Pluto after all the sweet press it got, but flowing water? That's all you got? You're going to have to try harder if you want to wow Earth's armchair astronomers.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 12:36 PM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh hey, I'm only just seeing this, wow!
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:46 PM on September 28, 2015


I'm pretty surprised by the lukewarm response to this.

Yes, this is incrementally building on an older discovery/theory, but it's also adding a lot of support to that theory from an entirely new angle. A lot of us (myself included) have been cautiously skeptical about the evidence of water on Mars, and this announcement erases an awful lot of doubt. It's not a definitive finding, but it's providing far stronger evidence than I previous believed we were capable of getting with our current instrumentation. This makes it a VERY exciting discovery.

The scientific method doesn't necessarily lend itself to the 24/7 news cycle, but this is the closest that you're going to get to a "Eureka!" moment from responsible, peer-reviewed science. "Higgs boson found exactly where we expected it to be" isn't a great headline, but it's really important and demonstrates a triumph of the previous theories and experiments ("After 20 years, CERN have found no new evidence of the Higgs boson" would have been an even more boring headline, despite being a far more interesting scientific result).

This discovery is exciting because it corroborates earlier data and experiments -- not in spite of it.

Seriously. I'm already considering this one of the "Where were you when you heard ____?" moments of my lifetime. Recent/current water on mars is a BFD, and this particular discovery raises a lot of interesting new questions.
posted by schmod at 12:58 PM on September 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


I wonder how religious people will reconcile this news with the Genesis story, which tells about God creating our world but ignores other places in the cosmos.
posted by Postroad at 1:16 PM on September 28, 2015


Water on Mars was put there by Satan to test our faith.
posted by logicpunk at 1:32 PM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


I thought most religions accounted for God creating the universe and thus all the planets in it, so it's not a big deal.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:38 PM on September 28, 2015


I wonder how religious people will reconcile this news with the Genesis story, which tells about God creating our world but ignores other places in the cosmos.

It is possible to refute or embrace any worldly observation through religion, such is the nature of faith. At the very least a text encompassing the galaxy, much less the universe, in accounting origin stories would have required more than a few donkeys for transport.
posted by Bistle at 1:41 PM on September 28, 2015


NASA: We threw some spiky metal things at Mars, and now Mars is crying. There is a chance it will retaliate
posted by oulipian at 2:19 PM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is awesome!

But, here come the headlines that say "There's water on Mars," just like this post.

We already knew there was water on Mars! That's not the news.
posted by Fleeno at 2:52 PM on September 28, 2015


"There was once water on Mars" and "There is water on Mars right now" is a pretty big distinction.
posted by schmod at 3:05 PM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yay, the astronauts won't be restricted on the number of cocktails!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:36 PM on September 28, 2015


Scientists try to be careful. So I discovered this thing? It happened once in June, so I didn't say anything. Then it happened again and I was able to do an experiment that confirmed the thing in a different way. So in August I announced to the grant people who funded the work that I had done the thing. Currently I am talking with people who've done similar things about collaborating with me to do more of the thing. I am assembling documentation and will present the thing at a regional meeting in the spring, yielding a published abstract. Next summer I will publish in a peer-reviewed journal. There will be no surprise at that point, because everyone will already know. [This thing? Not that interesting. Unlike liquid water on Mars, which makes me very happy because I know they double-checked before announcing it!]
posted by acrasis at 3:50 PM on September 28, 2015 [9 favorites]


The fuck did you people think was in all of those canals?

Goes back to reading The Martian Chronicles
posted by stet at 4:03 PM on September 28, 2015


Is it actually water or is it some other liquid?
posted by humanfont at 4:17 PM on September 28, 2015


I wonder how religious people will reconcile this news with the Genesis story, which tells about God creating our world but ignores other places in the cosmos.

Pretty easily I would think. If NASA finds life on Mars then the GOP will adopt Mars life denialism as part of their platform and insist that the scientific consensus hasn't proved that it didn't come from Earth.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 4:40 PM on September 28, 2015


Every time NASA announces something about water on Mars, it's always framed as evidence for life on Mars, and it gets people's expectations up. They should know by now that if they so much as mention the word "life", the media and the public will interpret it as meaning we're just on the cusp of finding it, any day now. They're not just talking to their fellow scientists here. The only reason the general public cares at all about water on Mars is because they've had it drilled into them for decades, chiefly by NASA, that water means life. That narrative is bound to lead to disappointment when people realize that their entire lives, NASA has been teasing the possibility of life on Mars, while the discovery itself never comes around.
posted by hyperbolic at 4:59 PM on September 28, 2015




Um, so, should I be getting excited or not here?
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:23 PM on September 28, 2015


Yeah. Get excited. Knock yourself out!
posted by mazola at 9:42 PM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm excited, but I've also seen that episode of Doctor Who and I will now fear the distant day that someone tries to drink the stuff.
posted by cmyk at 10:02 PM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Everyone who's complaining about the planetary protection rules, per the linked article,
Of the spacecraft NASA has sent to Mars, only the two Viking landers in 1976 were baked to temperatures hot enough to kill Earth microbes. NASA’s next Mars rover, scheduled to launch in 2020, will be no cleaner. Sterilizing spacecraft, which requires electronics and systems that can withstand the heat of baking, adds to the cost and complicates the design.
So there's no "oh noes stupid rules mean we'll never actually directly look for life". It's just a matter of specifying sterility on a particular mission and getting funding to build the lander appropriately.
posted by russm at 10:53 PM on September 28, 2015


Oh mighty Shai-hulud
Keeper of balance

Bless the Maker and His water
Bless the coming and going of Him
May His passage cleanse the world...
posted by my-username at 2:17 AM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


The big question now is how do probes actually sample one the streaks. They're crater or canyon walls, maybe an anchored climbing bot descending from above?

Even a low sloped wall could be problematic for a wheeled vehicle suddenly in muddy conditions.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:20 AM on September 29, 2015


> I hope it's gin.

and the little streams of alcohol
come a-tricklin' down the rocks
on the big red meatball planet.

posted by jfuller at 6:13 AM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


> ... the GOP will adopt Mars life denialism as part of their platform and insist that the scientific consensus hasn't proved that it didn't come from Earth.

I thought this was an scenario that scientists were actually contemplating. Didn't one of the people in the press conference say something knowing that organic chemicals can travel on comets. Not that there's any proof or fully developed mechanism right now, but I thought that if you discussed life being seeded from planet to planet (Mars to Earth, Earth to Mars) you wouldn't be immediately dismissed.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:18 AM on September 29, 2015


We need to land near the water fountain, so we won't have to go so far to get a drink. The good news, also, is that we probably won't have to worry about it raining.
posted by mule98J at 7:53 AM on September 29, 2015


Yeah, there is a hypothesis that life on earth may have been seeded/assisted by something that traveled through space (on a meteorite, not a flying saucer) and crashed on earth- like sugars, or RNA, and that those molecules could have come from Mars. That's one of the reasons that the discovery of life or complex molecules on Mars would be so interesting, even if the life form was very simple.
posted by Secretariat at 5:09 PM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]








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