Mars could be a cold desert if it were not for the perchlorate salts in the planet earth, which lower the freezing point of water to create oceans in equatorial zones. This is the new discovery of NASA's Curiosity research rover.
The discovery of groundwater, even streams, on planets with a warmer equatorial belt, challenges modern climate models. Despite the fact that during the motion of the spacecraft in the orbit of Mars, geological evidence was found for the temporary presence of liquid water, this phenomenon was called "regularly arising elongated structures".
Discoveries, published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, are based on a two-year measurement of atmospheric humidity and temperature by the Curiosity scientific all-terrain laboratory, which explores the ancient influence of the Storm Crater Basin near the planet's equator.
A computer model shows that the ocean is formed at night in the top 2 inches of the planet’s earth, when perchlorates absorb atmospheric water vapor.
However, the researchers concluded that the level of the fluid is very small to maintain terrestrial organisms. "This is not only a problem of water, but also temperature. Water activity and temperature on Mars are so small that they are below the cell's ability to reproduce and metabolize," says Jevier Martin-Torres of the University of Technology in Luleå, Sweden, in a letter to Discovery News.
Realization of such conditions was suitable for liquid oceans in order to form a link between incompatible achievements for including the ocean in on-site demonstration production with the next rover, which is scheduled to launch in 2020. The proposed device was not chosen, but in the process of its development Martin-Torres and Maria Paz Zorzano with the National Institute of Aerospace Astrobiological Center in Madrid, analyzed the data of humidity and temperature coming from Curiosity.
“We were aware that we had seen the conditions when oceans could be formed,” said Martin-Torres.
The study is relevant to the entire environment of Mars.
"Since perchlorates are widely distributed on the surface of Mars, this discovery means that the planet should have even more abundant oceans, due to the expected higher water content in the atmosphere and low temperatures," scientists wrote in Nature Geoscience. Scientists hope to include a method of salt production in the European Eco-Mars mission.
Perchlorates were found by the Phoenix landing module from NASA in August 2008, a discovery that prompted a re-analysis of the 1970s Viking experiments, which was looking for organic matter on Mars.
Scientists have repeated a key Viking experiment, using soil with a high content of perchlorates from the Atacama desert in Chile, which is considered to be one of the driest and most similar places on Earth on Mars. Outstanding traces of burnt organic matter were found. Scientists of the Viking have passed the same substances, as polluters from the Earth.
"In contrast to 30 years of experience, Viking discovered organic matter on Mars," said scientist Christopher McKay of NASA's Ames Research Center in Discovery News.
Current work does not mean that Viking has found life. Undoubtedly, the ubiquitous presence of perchlorates creates more suitable conditions for life.
Martin-Torres says this study "looks against the presence of life on the Martian land."