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Liquid water may have been discovered by the late Phoenix Mars Lander. This astonishing (and controversial) claim comes from some very intriguing images of the lander's leg shortly after Phoenix landed on the Red Planet last year. The series of black and white images appear to show droplets of water hanging off the robot's bodywork in the shade; it seems possible that the water droplets were splashed from the surface during Phoenix's rocket-assisted landing. Far from being static blobs, they appear to grow, much like water droplets here on Earth as water vapour is absorbed from the atmosphere.
But wait a minute, isn't the Martian atmosphere too thin and too cold to accommodate liquid water? That's where the perchlorate comes in…
If liquid water has been found to exist on the surface of Mars, there will be huge implications for our understanding of the planet. Most tantalizingly, liquid water, on or near the planet's surface, could aid the survival of microbial life, reinvigorating the search for extraterrestrial life on out interplanetary neighbour. But on a planet where the atmospheric pressure is 100 times less than on Earth, and temperatures reached a maximum of -20° Celcius during the Phoenix mission, why isn't this "liquid water" candidate frozen?
intriguing images of the lander's leg shortly after Phoenix landed on the Red Planet last year