Mars seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Photo: NASA/ESA/STScI

Seasonal flows of extremely salty water on Mars could be longer-lasting and more frequent than initially thought, though they likely aren't suitable to life as we know it, according to a study in the journal Nature Astronomy this week.

Why it matters: If these brines on the Red Planet are not habitable for microbes as we understand them, then scientists may not need to worry about potentially contaminating these regions during future missions, opening up new avenues of exploration on Mars.

What they found: Seasonal brines on Mars don't get warmer than about -55°F, a much colder temperature than life is known to thrive in.

  • Those liquids can form on about 40% of the Martian surface for as long as six hours, according to the study.

Yes, but: While the study shows it's unlikely that Earth-originating microbes could find safe purchase in Martian brines, that doesn't mean space agencies should send rovers to explore these parts of Mars from very close range.

  • It's still possible that some type of yet-to-be-discovered life on Earth could find a way to live in even this extreme environment on Mars.
  • "My hope is that our work motivates such further research into extremophiles on Earth," Edgard G. Rivera-Valentín, an author of the new study, told Axios via email.

Go deeper: Where to hunt for life on Mars

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Aug 18, 2020 - Science

Spacecraft exhaust could complicate lunar science

The Moon above Earth's atmosphere. Photo: NASA

Increased activity on the Moon could make it harder for scientists to study lunar ices that may hold clues to the origins of water in the solar system.

What's happening: With NASA's Artemis program and other space agencies aiming for the Moon, the lunar surface could become a very crowded place in the coming years. Scientists are now working to parse out any unintended consequences of that exploration.

Updated 23 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court denies Pennsylvania GOP request to limit mail-in voting

Protesters outside Supreme Court. Photo: Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Monday denied a request from Pennsylvania's Republican Party to shorten the deadlines for mail-in ballots in the state. Thanks to the court's 4-4 deadlock, ballots can be counted for several days after Election Day.

Why it matters: It's a major win for Democrats that could decide the fate of thousands of ballots in a crucial swing state that President Trump won in 2016. The court's decision may signal how it would deal with similar election-related litigation in other states.

Microphones will be muted during parts of Thursday's presidential debate

Photos: Jim Watson and Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Commission on Presidential Debates adopted new rules on Monday to mute microphones to allow President Trump and Joe Biden two minutes of uninterrupted time per segment during Thursday night's debate, AP reports.

Why it matters: In the September debate, Trump interrupted Biden 71 times, compared with Biden's 22 interruptions of Trump.

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