Where there's water present, there may be life - and now NASA has confirmed the existence of flowing streams of water on Mars.
The mysterious dark streaks were first captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) in 2011 using high resolution cameras. The streaks appear and grow during the warm months, and then dissipate, AP reported.
The streaks, known as RSLs for "recurring slope lineae", were first detected on steep Martian slopes and scientists now believe they consist of salt water. The salt lowers the freezing point of the water, allowing it to flow.
"Liquid water is a key requirement for life on Earth," project team leader Lujendra Ojha, of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, told Space.com. "The presence of liquid water on Mars' present-day surface therefore points to environment that are more habitable than previously thought."
The report, entitled "Spectral evidence for hydrated salts in recurring slope lineae on Mars" was published today online in Nature Geoscience, supports the theory that the RSL streaks were formed by streaming water.
Water had been previously discovered at the polar ice caps on Mars but was believed to have quickly evaporated into the planet's thin atmosphere. According to previously released data, Mars once had vast oceans but suffered a major climatic event eons ago that changed the environment forever, NASA said.
"Under certain circumstances liquid water has been found on Mars," NASA confirmed at a press conference today.
The new discovery implies that Mars may have supported life in the past and could support it again in the future – for colonists from Earth.