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'Mars mystery' solved: Free-flowing water discovered on Red Planet, NASA says

Where there is water, there's likely life.

By Brooks Hays
An enhanced color image sequence of seasonal water flows in Horowitz Crater on Mars. NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 (UPI) -- Water is flowing on the Martian surface! Just as many predicted, the scientific breakthrough that NASA hinted at over the weekend is the discovery of water on the Red Planet.

On Twitter, NASA declared a "major scientific finding had been made" and "Mars mystery solved." Now, that mystery has been revealed.

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In a new study, NASA scientists detail what they say is the strongest evidence yet of the presence of water -- flowing salty streaks of water that come and go with the Martian seasons.

Scientists have speculated that streak-like erosion may be caused by seasonal springs, but now researchers say they have direct chemical evidence.

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Satellite instruments were able to detect the presence of waterlogged molecules, hydrated salts called perchlorates.

"Something is hydrating these salts, and it appears to be these streaks that come and go with the seasons," Lujendra Ojha, one of the lead scientists responsible for the discovery, said in a press release. "This means the water on Mars is briny, rather than pure. It makes sense because salts lower the freezing point of water. Even if RSL are slightly underground, where it's even colder than the surface temperature, the salts would keep the water in a liquid form and allow it to creep down Martian slopes."

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There was plenty of speculation on what exactly would be revealed, but most in the science community believe the announcement detail the discovery of free flowing water on Mars -- not the discovery of alien life forms. Though, such a discovery may not be far away.

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"Water is essential to life as we know it," the researchers wrote in their new study on the subject, published on Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience. "The presence of liquid water on Mars today has astrobiological, geologic and hydrologic implications and may affect future human exploration."

Enhanced color images of flowing water in the Newton Crater on Mars. Scientists say the water melts as part of a seasonal pattern on the Red Planet. NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

There has been plenty of indirect evidence of water's past presence on Mars, but proof of free-flowing water now changes the discussion about life on Mars, making the presence of living organisms more likely.

The announcement will also embolden those working to establish some sort of human colony or outpost on the Red Planet.

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NASA's big announcement was streamed live on NASA TV.

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