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Was evidence for liquid water on Mars really discovered last year? Doubts surface.

Dark streaks on Garni Crater could imply water/NASA, JPL

From Mike Wall at Space.com:

The streaks, known as recurring slope lineae (RSL), occur seasonally on steep, relatively warm slopes at many locations on the Red Planet. They were discovered in 2011 by scientists studying images captured by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

But it may be prudent to rein in that excitement a bit, according to a new study. Hydrated salts are crystalline solids, and it’s possible that the water the RSL salts contain comes from the Martian atmosphere rather than liquid water at or near the surface, said Raina Gough, a research scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder.More.

On the bright side, we are now, as noted earlier, looking at specific locations and the hypotheses generated are much less “shot in the dark” than they used to be.

One hears much less of this kind of thing now: “It could be life we couldn’t recognize because it is so different from what we expect.” Sure thing, but if we wouldn’t know it when we saw it, why are we looking for it?

See also: Life on Mars: New focus on deciding where to look “Become the microbe”? Implicit in the discussion is a key difference between life and non-life: Life forms seek to live. They don’t just sit there as complex, organized structures; they seek to preserve that state. Is that a hallmark of life, should we find an unknown type somewhere?

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