The dark streaks on Mars are water


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New data strongly suggests that that the seasonal dark streaks scientists have imaged running down crater slopes on Mars are heavily salted water.

The salt allows the water to flow by lowing its freezing point. The new data has confirmed the presence of those salts, strengthening the theory that the seasonal streaks are water, possibly seeping from beneath the surface or condensing out of the atmosphere.

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22 comments

  • Nick P

    People have been pointing out those streaks for about 10 years and saying they have to be water. NASA is just now catching up?

  • Nick,

    You are being unjustiably self-righteous again. Planetary scientists both in and out of NASA have always suspected the seasonal streaks were water. All today’s result does is announce some solid proof that those suspicions were correct.

    A good scientist doesn’t believe something is true. They find the facts to prove it. You are thus being very unjust to criticize them for this, especially because today’s announcement is a demonstration of good science.

  • Nick P

    Bob, I don’t need to be chastised by you for an innocuous comment. Apparently I don’t meet your standards so I will take my comments elsewhere.

  • PeterF

    Salty water and dark streaks…
    Does this post make anyone else think – bathroom humor?

    Seriously, the two theories put forward:

    “This suggests that the water could get to the surface streaks either from above, via deliquescence—the absorption of water vapor from the atmosphere—or from below, via an underground aquifer.”

    I can’t help but think that if the water was coming from the atmosphere it would appear in locations other than on crater walls. To me, an underground aquifer broken open by an impactor seems the more likely explanation.

  • Edward

    Nick,

    To me, your comment seemed mean-spirited. If it had been directed toward something that I had worked on, I would feel hurt that the public thought that our careful analysis looked like stupidity on our part.

    Scientists — real scientists — try to avoid many pitfalls, such as the one that Pons and Fleischmann fell into. They published early, without proper review, and raised the hopes of a generation of people around the world. We still don’t have anything powered by cold fusion, and people are still talking about it as though it actually works.

    Mars has been a much more popular topic, and less than a century ago people were convinced that not only was there life on Mars but that it was intelligent life that created irrigation canals large enough to be visible from Earth. People were so convinced of Martian life that a mere Halloween radio show frightened and panicked much of the US Eastern seaboard.

    It would be irresponsible to jump to conclusions about water on Mars, considering that so many people will likewise leap to the conclusion that it means that there is or was life there. Had the scientists been wrong about the water, it could take several generations to correct the incorrect impression.

    Many people still believe, half a century later, that according to mathematics bees cannot fly, and that false conclusion was almost immediately shown to be based upon an aliasing error. Many people believe that the Earth is warming, despite 18 years of fairly steady temperatures, and warming is an almost daily topic of conversation.

    Please allow scientists to be certain of their conclusions before making announcements that have such major implications and consequences. Had they been wrong, there could have been missions to colonize Mars that depended upon water being available there, and the missions would have spectacularly and tragically failed.

  • Nick P

    Edward

    “To me, your comment seemed mean-spirited. If it had been directed toward something that I had worked on, I would feel hurt that the public thought that our careful analysis looked like stupidity on our part”

    Thank you for a courteous response.

    I was not intending to be critical of Bob, but of NASA. Perhaps I should have been more clear.

    The differing perspectives of Engineers and Scientists. It’s not stupidity on NASA’s part, but as an Engineer, when I see something that looks like a duck, quacks and most importantly, tastes like a duck, I am satisfied it’s a duck. I do not have to wait 10 years on NASA for a detailed DNA analysis of the corpse. People have been finding many instances of this flowing liquid and pointing out that it almost certainly must be water. For NASA to finally acknowledge what has been fairly obvious for many years is not the level of announcement I would consider earth shaking. It IS important news of confirmation but NASA is confirming the work of others outside NASA as well as inside, not announcing a discovery entirely of their own.

  • Edward

    Nick wrote: “I was not intending to be critical of Bob, but of NASA. Perhaps I should have been more clear.”

    That came through loud and clear. If I had been one of the NASA people, I would have felt bad.

    Nick wrote: “People have been finding many instances of this flowing liquid and pointing out that it almost certainly must be water.”

    It is that “almost” part that is worrying. In fact, I am concerned that NASA has declared that there are water flows on Mars without actually seeing the water flow.

    Although I agree that there has to be some form of liquid flow on the surface, since otherwise the evidence of ancient (millions or hundreds of millions of years old) flows should be hidden by dust accumulation and wind erosion, I can only hope that a lack of imagination has not caused a “false positive” that it can only be from water and not some other cause, because I would hate for a ship full of colonists to perish because they were counting on water that turned out not to be there.

    Fortunately, since we know the location, we can someday send a probe designed to be there at the time that the water flows to confirm the “sighting” before sending colonists there.

  • Nick P

    Edward

    “If I had been one of the NASA people, I would have felt bad.”

    One of those NASA people? You mean one of those guys who makes a very nice living spending 10 years figuring out that flowing liquid is water? Weren’t you just talking on another thread about unethical climate scientists being motivated by money from the government? If I had been one of the climate people I’d feel bad…

  • Cotour

    Q: Since when has questioning a scientist about something they have stated and making him or her “feel bad” been a consideration in science? Is that really appropriate in our time?

    If a scientist can not substantiate what they state they deserve to be made to “feel bad”.

  • Max

    I agree, there’s too many unknowns in this equation to make a definitive conclusion. I just found my freeze-drying chart to see at what pressure water boils ( solid to a gas state) bypassing the liquid stage. 6.11 mbar of pressure at 32° . Mars has 7 mbar of pressure. Water vapor would quickly sublimate to the nearest cold shadow or under the dirt to the permafrost wherever it is coldest.
    The liquid stage is too small of a window to be relevant. This is why anti-freezing element ( Salt, or a dozen other possible chemicals) must be introduced to have liquid water on Mars.
    I must note that I don’t think this is just a coincidence. Atmospheric pressure at the boiling point of water are too close. It must be relevant to a state of balance similar to the balance of the temperature on the bottom of the ocean on earth being just above the point of freezing.
    As for global warming activist and scientists feeling bad… They do not. They only feel desperate that their house of cards which is being held up by political and religious momentum may not survive much longer. Although they have done a great job disguising and hiding the elephant in the room, the smell is getting to everyone and the noise is unbearable!

  • hondo

    My only interest is the possibility of still existing micro-environments when live continues to survive.

  • Edward

    Nick wrote: “You mean one of those guys who makes a very nice living spending 10 years figuring out that flowing liquid is water?”

    Apparently, you are not concerned about accuracy or correct interpretation of the data. That is fine for you, but the science community should be. Otherwise the integrity of science is compromised. If it takes ten years, then that is what it takes. I hope you don’t expect to pay these guys a “very nice living” only to have them present you with junk science.

    Nick wrote: “Weren’t you just talking on another thread about unethical climate scientists being motivated by money from the government?”

    Yes, but I hope you are not suggesting that these scientists concluded that water flows on Mars only because the government won’t fund their research unless they come to that conclusion. I seriously doubt that continued funding is why they came to that conclusion.

    Nick wrote: “If I had been one of the climate people I’d feel bad…”

    And you should feel bad. that the governments of the world are rewarding scientists who fudge data in order to come to the conclusions that the same governments want is shameful and bad.

    However, the bad feelings that I talked about to start this thread were on your unkind words, not on the poor integrity of Lujendra Ojha, et al. They have announced finding salts that are associated with water and concluded that the streaks were caused by salt-laden water flowing down the crater walls.

    Cotour wrote: “If a scientist can not substantiate what they state they deserve to be made to ‘feel bad’.”

    Thank you for pointing out another reason to be careful in coming to the correct conclusions. If the conclusion cannot be substantiated, it is too early to publish.

  • Nick P

    Edward,

    I’m responding to your last post here because this website doesn’t seem to allow responses beyond a few levels

    As an engineer and not a scientist I see on one hand a reverence for the Scientist and a defense of their honor if they agree with you, but if they have an opposing view it’s ok to trash them as greedy scumbags only after power and a buck. That was essentially the opinion you expressed of the backers of AGW. Maybe you’re right about them but at this point it’s unproven and only your opinion. Normally I wouldn’t even bring that up and single you out but under those circumstances I think I am entitled to express an opinion as well. I question the fanfare over NASA’s confirmation of what others reported 15 year ago (not the 10 years I previously thought). That was my whole point, if not expressed as well as it could have been. The fanfare was unwarranted. NASA was blowing their own horn. We saw a liquid flowing down a hillside seasonally on a planet known to have substantial quantities of subsurface water. What did they think it was? 7-up? After 15 years they could have at least credited those who first spotted the flowing water and acknowledged that NASA’s findings were confirmation of the discoveries of others outside the agency. It would have been the decent thing to do.

  • Phill O

    Ideally, science is conducted as Bob has stated:

    “A good scientist doesn’t believe something is true. They find the facts to prove it. You are thus being very unjust to criticize them for this, especially because today’s announcement is a demonstration of good science.”

    However, this has not been the practice of many. Take some examples of errors:

    1 It was said that the Great lakes would take over 100 years to come back after the pollution was stopped. This was not the case and there was stocking of fish in about ten years. What was missing from the equations was the interaction of microbes on the pollutants. Now, there are companies that try to decompose pollutants with microbes. It has been rumored that the contamination of sites where the reaction to produce 2,4,5-T got out of control, was negated before cleanup crews were dispatched (slow government and microbes).

    2 PCBs are toxic. No, they are not. The very fact that they hang around in the environment for eons indicate nothing interacts with them. However, the early Aroclors had dioxins in them due to insufficient chlorination of the biphenyls. These are carcinogens, as are aflatoxins (aflatoxin B1 is category 1B carcinogen) found in peanuts. The toxicity of the tetrachloro-dibezo-p-dioxin depends upon the exact configuration. When looking at adipose tissue for PCB content (transformer maintenance workers who showed the first signs of cloracne) and calculating the body burden, the same amount of methanol (wood alcohol) would kill a person.

    3 There are holes on the ozone from the escape of refrigerants. This is a prime example of science jumping to a conclusion when no baseline data was available. When the instruments were available to measure ozone in the upper atmosphere, scientists saw the naturally occurrence of higher ozone concentrations at the equator. This has to be because ozone formation in the upper atmosphere requires sunlight (ultraviolet). The poles have significantly less sunlight and when it does strike, it is at a low angle. The fact that there is as much ozone at the poles as there is can be attributed to the upper atmosphere currents. This low concentration is not a problem as it is generally to cold to sunbath above 60 latitude. Trust me: I go south for the winter.

    4 CO2 is the major cause of global warming.

    These are all examples of science being interpreted through personal bias.

    So, I do not blame Nick for his distrust of the NASA conclusion for the find of water. I definitely can see the argument that NASA had relayed that the dark streak were “possibly” from water.

    The fact that we have been seeing dark streaks for over 10 years, suggests that Mars ihas experienced wamring as had Earth and possible Pluto.

  • Edward

    Nick wrote: “Maybe you’re right about them but at this point it’s unproven and only your opinion.”

    No, I have been very explicit in the deceit that they have undertaken. This is not opinion, it is backed up with actual facts, including leaked emails that have been acknowledged to be real, announcements of censorship policies, and financial data showing that Gore has made tens (or by now hundreds) of millions of dollars selling carbon credits after his movie came out. The British courts ruled that there were five outright lies in his movie, but would not rule that he failed to balance his movie with the left out halves of truths that he stated (e.g. half the world’s glaciers are shrinking, but he failed to note that the other half are growing) — it seems that such a ruling was not part of the lawsuit.

    Nick wrote: “I question the fanfare over NASA’s confirmation of what others reported 15 year ago (not the 10 years I previously thought).”

    In your initial comment, you failed to mention the fanfare part. You seemed to be questioning why it took so long to conclude the obvious, or it read like you thought it was obvious.

    The fanfare could not exist without news media interest. They show interest because it keeps alive the idea that there once could have been or still is life on Mars, and the news media seems ever so eager to announce the discovery of life on another world.

    Nick wrote: “The fanfare was unwarranted. … We saw a liquid flowing down a hillside seasonally on a planet known to have substantial quantities of subsurface water.”

    The fanfare would be warranted if we wanted to use water on Mars for future colonies or explorers. Knowing that water currently exists is important, because we do not have to expend the fuel or launchers to take water with us. On the other hand, it is the press that we are discussing, and they sometimes choose the darnedest things to hype and to ignore.

    The subsurface water was conjectured, and I have tried to suggest that without actually detecting the water itself then we should not really count on it being there. The report merely says that there are salts that are associated with water. The conclusion is that the salts were carried there by water. Before I put my own life on the line by founding a Martian colony that relies on that water, I want the water itself to be examined, not deduced.

    Nick wrote: “they could have at least credited those who first spotted the flowing water and acknowledged that NASA’s findings were confirmation of the discoveries of others outside the agency. It would have been the decent thing to do.”

    If you examine the paper that is linked in the article, you should find a list of references to such people, dating back several years. You should also find that several of the authors of this paper have been working on this problem for several years and may, themselves, be some of the scientists you wish to be confirmed as discoverers of this phenomenon.
    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo2546.html

    Nick wrote: “What did they think it was? 7-up?”

    That is kind of what they concluded. The conclusion is that the water is salty, not pure.

    From the paper: “We find evidence for hydrated salts at all four locations in the seasons when recurring slope lineae are most extensive, which suggests that the source of hydration is recurring slope lineae activity. … Our findings strongly support the hypothesis that recurring slope lineae form as a result of contemporary water activity on Mars.”

  • Nick P

    Edward

    I don’t know where this reply is going to show up because there is no “reply” option at the end of your post. I hope you can piece this together.

    “No, I have been very explicit in the deceit that they have undertaken. This is not opinion, it is backed up with actual facts, including leaked emails that have been acknowledged to be real, announcements of censorship policies, and financial data showing that Gore has made tens (or by now hundreds) of millions of dollars selling carbon credits after his movie came out”

    I’m sure you are sincere in your belief, but to me, you are an anonymous poster on the internet who has an opposing view to the scientific establishment. What is a person like me to make of this? What credentials do you claim to give some authority to your position? Myself, I have no credentials that would be relevant to this topic other than the modeling of complex systems but nobody has mentioned this so I don’t chime in, so otherwise I claim no expertise but I’m really interested in this topic and I’d like to see an intelligent discussion. The problem is that this is the internet and anybody can say anything, so why should my BS have any more weight than anyone else’s?(It shouldn’t). How does someone like me separate the wheat from the chaff? Have you expertise here?

  • Edward

    Nick wrote: “Have you expertise here?”

    Well, there is an interesting and nebulous question. What kind of expertise are you looking for?

    On this page, we have had a variety of topics in the comments section, from water on Mars (I am not an expert in the search for martian water) to publications announcing that they will not publish papers, letters to the editor, or articles that contradict global warming/climate change/climate weirding/whatever-the-nom-du-jour (I have read these announcements, possibly linked by this site).

    Meanwhile, we seem to have strayed from the topic of water on Mars to questioning expertises in … whatever.

    You seem to be questioning — without raising the question — emails that predict the destruction of data, then the data vanishes; announced censorship policies; and Al Gore’s carbon credit profits.

    I do not have to “believe” that these are true, I have the facts:
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/08/13/cru_missing/
    “The world’s source for global temperature record admits it’s lost or destroyed all the original data that would allow a third party to construct a global temperature record. The destruction (or loss) of the data comes at a convenient time for the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) in East Anglia – permitting it to snub FoIA requests to see the data.”

    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/la-times-cuts-off-climate-change-deniers/
    “The [Los Angeles] Times is among mainstream media sources that quietly stopped giving a voice to climate-change deniers.”

    http://www.dailyfinance.com/2009/11/03/al-gore-the-worlds-first-carbon-billionaire/
    “As a private citizen, Gore does not have to disclose his income or assets, as he did in his years in Congress and the White House, but when he left government in early 2001, he listed assets of less than $2 million, …

    “Today, Gore does not reveal his net worth, but the fact that he was able to single-handedly make a $35 million investment in Capricorn Investment Group, … speaks volumes about the magnitude of his wealth.”

    Is this the kind of expertise you are looking for, or are there other relevant credentials that you seek, and if so, what kind?

    Nick wrote: “The problem is that this is the internet and anybody can say anything, so why should my BS have any more weight than anyone else’s?(It shouldn’t).”

    The solution is that this is the internet, and anybody can research almost anything. You can check to see if the person you are reading or watching (e.g. YouTube) is giving you BS or is giving you new and valid information. A little research is how to determine who you should give more weight to.

  • Nick P

    Edward – once again I don’t know where this reply will end up as there is no reply option associated with your post.

    “You seem to be questioning — without raising the question — emails that predict the destruction of data, then the data vanishes; announced censorship policies; and Al Gore’s carbon credit profits”

    Not at all. I’m just trying to put it in perspective. I wish there was someone posting here who defends the more orthodox view and might address the issues you raise, or at least offer some perspective.

    As you have claimed no expertise I will assume you are a casual observer much like myself.

  • Edward

    Nick wrote: “I’m just trying to put it in perspective. I wish there was someone posting here who defends the more orthodox view and might address the issues you raise, or at least offer some perspective.”

    If lying, cheating, and fudging in science are orthodox, we may be in trouble. As a fellow engineer, you likewise depend upon the reliability of scientific evaluations to do your job, just as I do. Neither of us would do well if the results that we use in our jobs turns out to be false. Our own products would turn out to be faulty or too expensive (which is similar to faulty).

    Nick wrote: “As you have claimed no expertise I will assume you are a casual observer much like myself.”

    Still not sure which area you want to know that I am expert in. Email analysis, water on Mars, global climate weirding change, something else, all of the above? The comment in which you requested expertise was related to the three links that I gave you, but that does not seem to be enough, so let me ask a different way: what is it that you want from me?

  • Nick P

    Edward

    “If lying, cheating, and fudging in science are orthodox, we may be in trouble”

    Yes, we would be in deep trouble, but I’m also aware that there are always two sides to every story. To be a useful board we need both sides represented. Isn’t there anyone out there who would defend the orthodox view against charges of data tampering, falsification and outright lying?

  • Edward

    As though these are defensible.

    On review of the discussion on this posting, I think I sussed out what you are looking for.

    As for the mean spirited nature of your original comment, I have designed, built, and tested science instruments for NASA, NOAA, and Air Force spacecraft. I have some personal knowledge of working on projects that some people looked down upon (as though another 20 million dollars would finally and permanently solve poverty when 20 million million dollars has not — clearly money is not the solution, and Obama is right: jobs are the solution). I have worked with scientists and understand their point of view on science.

    There are many things that seem obvious but are actually counterintuitive. A goose could be confused for a duck. In orbital mechanics, if you want to speed up, you slow down, and vice versa. When you slow down, you drop into a lower orbit, which not only takes less distance to go around the planet but your craft increases in speed (check out Mercury’s orbit and speed compared with Venus’s and Earth’s) — you will make an orbit in much less time, thus you have sped up. If you are making an important discovery, you need to be sure of your facts, otherwise people could believe, for decades, that scientists think that mathematically bees cannot fly. This is why Cotour’s comment was correct. Conclusions must be substantiated by the data. Otherwise the hypothesis remains a hypothesis and fails to become a theory.

    You mischaracterized one of my comments, saying that I called scientists “greedy scumbags only after power and a buck.” In the other, referenced, thread I was calling the governments power hungry and the scientists I described as wanting to earn a living by continuing to be funded by those power hungry governments (as no one else would fund them, as AGW skeptics often attest). However, as one who has worked with scientists, I have helped with proposals for research projects. Getting funding is how many or most scientists earn their living. They produce no products on their own (e.g. better mousetraps), but they are able to provide a service: research (e.g. what would improve a mousetrap).

    In addition to building space instruments for scientists, I have spent a few years as a test engineer, verifying that satellites and space hardware work as intended (sometimes learning that they do not and need corrective measures or acceptance as is). I know about the treatment of raw — or original — data.

    The destruction of data after it is processed is against all rules of data handling. Without the original data, there is no method to verify the collection and processing of the data and thus the conclusions made. This is part of the tragedy of the East Anglia Group’s mishandling of data. They discussed among themselves that they would rather destroy the data than let any skeptic see it, and this is strong evidence (almost proof) that they were being fraudulent. The kindest thing we can say is that they were not confident that their conclusions were correct and didn’t want anyone to figure out that they were wrong. This may also be considered fraud, but I am not a legal expert.

    I presented links to verify the other items that you wanted to put in perspective. It seems to me that this should have provided enough perspective. Once again, I think that the reason that no one will defend the accusations is that they are not defensible. East Anglia admitted to losing or destroying all the original data (a second tragedy is that this data can never again be used to formulate working climate models, thus we may have lost decades of invaluable data because of the hubris of a few scientists).

    Some publications actually have stopped printing anything that contradicts the conclusion that humans are responsible for global warming/climate change/climate weirding/nom-du-jour.

    Al Gore made tens of millions of dollars by telling lies and half truths (most parents would consider half truths coming from their children to be lies, but apparently it is acceptable behavior for a politician). To me, this sounds like greed and fraud.

    I find it further interesting (referring back to your “interesting and nebulous question”) that you desire some level of expertise from others who comment on a topic that you comment upon, even as you declare your lack of expertise.

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