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Media Advisory: Johns Hopkins Expert Available to Discuss Report on Martian Surface Water

Sept. 28, 2015
CONTACT: Arthur Hirsch
Office: 443-997-9909
Cell: 443-462-8702

Kevin Lewis, an expert on the geology and past climate of Mars at Johns Hopkins University, is available to discuss findings published today on evidence of surface water on Mars.

Lewis, an assistant professor in the Morton K. Blaustein Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences, is part of the team that operates NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, which has been exploring Gale Crater since the summer of 2012.  Since then, Lewis has co-published 19 papers on Martian geology focusing on the Gale Crater and other features, including rocky evidence of bygone water flow.

Lewis is not part of the eight-member scientific team that today published an account of evidence of salt water flowing seasonally in four Martian locations, but he said the report in the journal Nature Geoscience is  “pretty persuasive.”  The presence of surface water raises the prospect that the planet could support life.

Lewis said the hypothesis that the salt in the water allows recurring water flow despite low temperatures, low atmospheric pressure and extremely arid conditions “is probably correct, although there are still some questions about how the water gets resupplied each year. …I would say it’s pretty exciting – obviously it would be fantastic to see the water itself, but that’s pretty hard to do, especially if it’s just below the surface.”

The study used spectrographic information gathered by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite showing deposits of hydrated salts forming lines on Martian slopes.  The authors argue that these recurring streaks suggest that very small streams of salty liquid gurgle to the surface and flow downhill.  The authors caution, however, that no direct evidence of hydrated salts or liquid water has been found.

Scientists have known definitively since the 1970s that the polar caps of Mars contain frozen water, but evidence of surface water has been elusive.

To speak with Lewis, please contact Arthur Hirsch at 443-997-9909 (office), 443-462-8702 (cell) or ahirsch6@jhu.edu.


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