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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.

Schumer: Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

Why it matters: Trump is the only president in U.S. history to be impeached twice for “incitement of insurrection" after a violent pro-Trump mob breached the U.S. Capitol, resulting in five deaths.

57 mins ago - Health

CDC extends interval between COVID vaccine doses for exceptional cases

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.

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