(Image: Salty water droplets on Phoenix Mars Lander. Credit: NASA)
With temperatures plunging below -100 degrees (in both Fahrenheit and Celsius), Mars is not exactly known as warm and friendly place to live upon.
While the red planet does boast an abundance of ice, it looks as if scientists have discovered that liquid water can exist upon its surface--in an extremely salty form.
(SpaceRef) Temperature fluctuation in the arctic region of Mars where Phoenix landed and salts in the soil could create pockets of water too salty to freeze in the climate of the landing site, Renno says.
Photos of one of the lander's legs show droplets that grew during the polar summer. Based on the temperature of the leg and the presence of large amounts of "perchlorate" salts detected in the soil, scientists believe the droplets were most likely salty liquid water and mud that splashed on the spacecraft when it touched down. The lander was guided down by rockets whose exhaust melted the top layer of ice below a thin sheet of soil. [...]
The wet chemistry lab on Phoenix found evidence of perchlorate salts, which likely include magnesium and calcium perchlorate hydrates. These compounds have freezing temperatures of about -90 and -105 Fahrenheit respectively. The temperature at the landing site ranged from approximately -5 to -140 Fahrenheit, with a median temperature around -75 Fahrenheit. Temperatures at the landing site were mostly warmer than this during the first months of the mission.
Perchlorate salts are not exactly healthy for humans, and their presence on Mars comes with a double blessing.
While this means that future colonists may have an easier time storing water (at least in liquid form), it also means that it will have to be heavily filtered if humans (not to mention our animal friends) are to ever drink it.
Want more space geek news? Then subscribe below via email, RSS or twitter for free updates! Prefer another service? How about via RSS or follow Colony Worlds on Twitter!