Strange Streaks on Mars Are Sand, Not Water

Strange Streaks on Mars Are Sand, Not Water

At the time, NASA thought that was significant evidence that flowing liquid water caused these weird streaks. They found streaks appearing only on those slopes that are steep enough for the dry grains of sand and dust to flow downward.

For the study, the researchers analyzed the observations made by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera fitted on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Scientists, including those from the University of Arizona in the United States and Durham University in the United Kingdom analysed narrow, down-slope trending surface features on Mars that are darker than their surroundings, called Recurring Slope Linea (RSL). A November report interprets those as granular flows, rather than darkening due to flowing water. Dundas says this doesn't rule out liquid water on Mars, but it supports the idea of a cold, dry planet.

The discovery of the seasonal flowing feature also known as "recurring slope lineae" or RSL in 2011 had evoked fascination and controversy and had been believed as a marker for liquid water flow or brine in a planet which was otherwise considered as dry.

Mars photos show an interesting landscape feature: dark streaks that appear to show flowing movement, which some thought may be water. Since liquid water is key for life here on Earth, many thought these odd lines of flowing water may help support life on the Martian surface.

This image shows Recurring Slope Lineae in Tivat crater on Mars in enhanced colour.

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New research from the U.S. Geological Survey has found that the mysterious streaks once thought to be proof of water on Mars are probably just sand flows.

Lead author of the study Colin Dundas said: "This new understanding. supports other evidence that shows that Mars today is very dry".

Sand stream found in Martian surface. He discovered they form on Martian dunes that slope at a particular angle. Liquid water would have readily extended to less steep slopes. But a new study led by a Flagstaff geologist says that's not the case. RSL served as compelling evidence of water on Mars. It could be limited to traces of dissolved moisture from the atmosphere and thin films of water.

"RSL probably form by some mechanism that is unique to the environment of Mars", McEwen says, "so they represent an opportunity to learn about how Mars behaves, which is important for future surface exploration".