Puddles of water found on Mars by NASA
An image processing engineer at Lockheed Martin has just announced that he believes one of NASA's Martian rovers has discovered puddles of water on the surface of the red planet.
Scientists currently believe that Mars is a cold, frigid dessert with very little atmosphere. We do know that there is water ice below the surface in a sort of permafrost, but because the air pressure is so low any water at the surface would just evaporate away.
Ron Levin has been examining photos taken by the Rover Opportunity and has found some intriguing looking images taken about two years ago. What he's found is a series of very smooth, bluish features sat in the bottom of depressions at the bottom of a crater that the rover was exploring. This is perhaps just what you'd expect if they were puddles of water. Levin even claims that you can see small stones below the surface and poking through the water.
Not all scientists are convinced, however. We can recreate the surface conditions at Mars is specially controlled chambers in laboratories on Earth and it seems that it would need some very special weather on Mars to allow water to exist, such as absolutely no winds and summertime temperatures. Another explanation could be that this is actually ice that has frozen in smooth pools on the surface.
Unfortunately it seems we'll probably never find out. The NASA rovers were only supposed to survive 3 months on Mars, but have so far lasted 3 years. Because the images were taken 2 years ago the rover has moved on it's unlikely that it will be possible to send the rover back to have another better look.
If we can get liquid water on Mars then it's a boost for those who believe life might exist on the planet and perhaps the next European Mars mission called Mars express scheduled to launch in 2013 might provide some more answers.