There may be salt water on Mars

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Liquid salt solution can wash a large part of the surface of Mars, writes the publication of Science News with reference to the publication in the May issue of Nature Astronomy magazine. The authors of the article planetologist Edgard Rivera-Valentín and his colleagues from the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston believe that Earth’s microorganisms will not survive in such conditions, and this is good news for space explorers who fear the contamination of Mars by terrestrial microbes in the study of the Red planet robots.

Fresh liquid water on the cold Martian surface can not be, but a mixture of some salts, together with H2O somewhere quite likely. Landing vehicles NASA Curiosity and Phoenix found in the Martian soil salts of chloric acid, perchlorates, and on this basis, scientists believe that such salts can cause the existence of the planet’s temporary seas. No salt water as such has been found on Mars, but there are signs that it may have seeped from deep layers. Two years ago, an article was even published on a subsurface lake near the South Pole of the Red Planet. To find out the probability of the existence of salty seas in modern Martian conditions Rivera-Valentine and the authors resorted to computer modeling.

According to the authors’ calculations, one type of salt solution can remain in a liquid state on the surface of Mars and at a depth of several centimeters under it for six hours in a row, while taking up 40% of the planet mainly in the middle and high northern latitudes. But it can only happen seasonally, for a short time. Salt Martian seas, according to the model, never heat above -480 degrees Celsius, which is 25 degrees below the limit of temperature stability known for terrestrial life forms. The results of this study are of interest to those planning Martian missions.

Space expeditions to places where there may be liquid water are subject to international regulation aimed at preventing the biological contamination of celestial bodies by terrestrial organisms. If the Martian salty seas are indeed unsuitable for the life of known organisms of our planet, it may remove restrictions from future research missions. At the same time, in a comment to Astrobiology Rivera-Valentine does not rule out that there may be some organisms on Earth that will be comfortable in the Martian time seas.