As you've probably heard, NASA just announced the best-ever evidence for liquid water on Mars. Which is cool! But how cool, exactly? How excited should you be? Is this all hype?
You could always go read the blog post I slaved over a hot computer to write for you, but hey, I get it, you need the quick and dirty take. We've got you covered.
First, the very basic basics: If there's flowing water on Mars, it's not exactly like "flowing" water on Earth.
Flowing is a relative term. We're talking about wet dirt.
And we don't even have proof of water per se — just very good evidence of it.
Scientists have suspected for a while that certain dark streaks on Mars are caused by water. Today, they announced that they found the right chemical evidence to support that process — where salts called perchlorates could make Martian water stay liquid instead of evaporating immediately like it usually does.
They are not saying that they identified water itself.
Now, what would flowing water mean? Liquid water (as opposed to frozen water or water vapor) is a really important ingredient for life on Earth. It exists in lots of places in the solar system — several moons have oceans covering them — but we don't have any proof of water existing on the surface anywhere but Earth.
If parts of Mars are muddy, it means those parts could be less barren than the rest of the planet. There could be microbes in there. Maybe.
But making the jump from wet dirt to life is a bit much.
That doesn't mean this study isn't important! It's really important. It's just an incremental step, like most good science is. Most scientific discoveries aren't like:
They're usually more like:
So no: We didn't find evidence of life on Mars. We didn't even find water, exactly. But this new study is still a significant step in the ongoing hunt for life outside of our own tiny planet.