At 11:30 EDT NASA announced that under certain circumstances liquid water currently flows on Mars. Time lapse photography reveals the deposition of hydrating salt left over in the form of recurring slope lineae or RSL. These features can develop at a variety of latitudes on Mars, but are temperature dependent. The chemical identity of hydrated perchlorate in the RSL has been confirmed through spectroscopy from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. These salts, detected at 1.9 microns and 2.14 microns, contain liquid water at the molecular level.
Mars has a thin atmosphere that allows liquid water to vaporize at only 10 ° C, but water contained in a perchlorate brine may remain in a liquid phase until it reaches 24 ° C. Perchlorate has the ability to absorb moisture from the atmosphere, but may be supplied through underground aquifers. Higher concentrations of water near the surface of Mars have big implications for the hope of finding microbiological life and for providing a potential source of water for future astronauts.
Finding where the water comes from is the next major puzzle for scientists to solve, but the discovery is a major step in the search for life on Mars.