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By Ann Tyller | September 28, 2015 2:26 pm

Dark narrow streaks stretch their fingers down Mars’ slopes every warm season. Those dark veins disappear when the weather cools down. For a long time, scientists have thought these streaks come from a salty brine.

Dark narrow streaks stretch their fingers down Mars' slope

Dark narrow streaks stretch their fingers down Mars’ slope

Now scientists have  found a way to determine what those streaks are made of, using data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The researchers found salts appear during warm weather. The salts were possibly left behind by evaporated water. In contrast, in the areas where linea never show up, there was no indication of salt.

The findings strongly suggest that the brine hypothesis is correct—in which case, it would mean there’s liquid water on Mars, at least seasonally. That’s great news for scientists who still think life could be lurking on Mars.

Scientists aren’t sure where the water could be coming from every spring. It’s unlikely to come from melting ice (since there isn’t a lot of surface ice near Mars’ equator), or from Mars’ atmosphere (which is pretty dry). And an underground aquifer doesn’t explain why the striations occur even at the very tops of slopes.

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