/ Modified sep 28, 2015 12:05 p.m.

'Strongest Evidence' Mars Has Water, UA Scientist, Others Say

UA's HiRISE imaging equipment captured information leading to conclusion.

Mars water evidence spotlight Dark streaks are evidence of water flowing on surface of Mars, UA and other scientists say. (PHOTO: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

The "strongest evidence yet" that Mars has water was revealed Monday by NASA and other scientists, including a former University of Arizona researcher.

“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” NASA astronaut John Grunsfeld was quoted in a press release as saying. Grunsfeld is administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

“This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water -- albeit briny -- is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”

The evidence comes from analysis of images taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the press release said, adding that the analysis started with a former UA undergraduate, Lujendra Ojha, in 2010. Ojha is now with the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and authored a report on the findings published Monday in Nature Geoscience.

“The fact these salts are hydrated when we observed them means that there’s evidence of molecular water in their crystal structure," Ojha said at Monday's news conference.

Images of slopes on the Martian surface have what scientists have called mysterious streaks that Ojha and others said Monday are evidence of water flowing.

“These features are very sensitive to the temperature," said UA scientist Alfred McEwen, principal investigator for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, known as HiRise.

"They form at different times and at different latitudes on Mars, all dependent on the seasonal variations at those locations. And the darkening and the seasonal dependence can be explained if these are seeps of water.”

Scientists combined images from the UA-operated HiRise, which is aboard the Mars orbiter.

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