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Strong proof of water on Mars
 
 
 

SCIENTISTS exploring Mars have discovered that water once flowed in streams several feet deep, fuelling speculation that the planet could have once supported life.The news, which has left top Nasa scientists ‘excited’, comes thanks to photographs of bedrock beamed back from the red planet by the Curiosity rover.There have been previous signs that water existed on Mars long ago, but the images released on Thursday showing pebbles rounded off, probably by water, offered the most convincing evidence so far of an ancient streambed which could have been waist-deep.There was ‘a vigorous flow on the surface of Mars,’ said chief scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology. ‘We’re really excited about this.’The discovery did not come as a complete surprise. Nasa decided to land Curiosity inside a spot near the Martian equator, Gale Crater, because photos from space hinted that the spot possessed a watery past.What has surprised scientists are the mild temperatures recorded by the weather station on board Curiosity.On more than half the days Curiosity has been exploring Mars, the daytime temperature has been above 0°C, according to the Remote Environment Monitoring Station (REMS). Mars has reached above 6°C - and it may even reach the 20°C as the Martian ‘summer’ continues. Mind you, that’s little consolation during the night, when the temperature plummets to -70C, which is even colder than average winter temperatures on Antartica. Dr Felipe Gómez of the Centro de Astrobiología in Madrid said: ‘That we are seeing temperatures this warm already during the day is a surprise and very interesting. It’s very early days and we are only now being able to test our models against REMS observations.         –DM

 
 
on epaper page 11
 
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