A recent study claims the Martian ground might support liquid brines sometimes, but they’re freezing. The idea that Mars is wetter than previously believed is not a new thing. Other studies suggested that liquid freshwater can’t exist for an extended period on the frozen Martian ground. The issue is that the stuff quickly boils or freezes away into the Red Planet’s thin atmosphere. So, what’s different this time?
Brines, also known as super salty water, got lower freezing points and can stay in liquid for a more extended period. Researchers have found possible proof of such fluid in the form of small dark parts on warm Mars slopes pictured by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
How Could Liquid Brines Exist on Mars?
In the new research, scientists utilized measurements collected by Mars-examining spacecraft and data from atmospheric simulations to develop a new model. Such a thing can also predict where liquid could be at and close to the Martian ground.
The model suggests that approximately 40 % of the Red Planet could support liquid brines for up to 5 hours at a time. So, it’s only a distinctly seasonal phenomenon, with brines in every area possible during 2 % of the year, according to the team of scientists.
The close subsurface could be wetter still: the model indicates that brines could be present during 10 % of the Martian year at a distance of almost 8 centimeters. But such brines don’t have chances of building a life as we know it. They’re ultracold, with a maximum temperature of approximately 48 degrees Celsius.
“Our results indicate that (meta) stable brines on the Martian surface and its shallow subsurface (a few inches deep) are not habitable because their water activities and temperatures fall outside the known tolerances for terrestrial life,” explained the team.
However, there is a silver lining in this astrobiological dark cloud. Even if these liquid brines can’t support life on Mars, the upcoming missions should be able to examine them.