NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE image of recurring slope lineae (RSL) in Melas Chasma, Valles Marineris. Arrows point out tops and bottoms of a few lineae. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE image of recurring slope lineae (RSL) in Melas Chasma, Valles Marineris. Arrows point out tops and bottoms of a few lineae.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

What are they?

Mars-circling spacecraft have spotted at low and middle latitudes on the planet dark, finger-like features that creep down steep martian slopes in warmer months and then fade away in cooler months.

These features fade when inactive, and recur annually at nearly the same location over multiple martian years. What’s behind this phenomenon remains puzzling. No guess as to what they are and why they occur yet satisfies all observations.

A work in progress chart of known recurring slope lineae (RSL) sites. This global map of fully and partially confirmed RSL sites documented by end of 2013. Simple cylindrical map projection.  Credit: Used with permission from Rummel, J. D., et al., “A New Analysis of Mars “Special Regions”: Findings of the Second MEPAG Special Regions Science Analysis Group (SR-SAG2)

A work in progress chart of known recurring slope lineae (RSL) sites. This global map of fully and partially confirmed RSL sites documented by end of 2013. Simple cylindrical map projection.
Credit: Used with permission from Rummel, J. D., et al., “A New Analysis of Mars “Special Regions”: Findings of the Second MEPAG Special Regions Science Analysis Group (SR-SAG2)

Whatever their true nature, they are now unceremoniously called “recurring slope lineae” – or RSL for short. Okay, that’s scientific wordiness.

Perhaps think of them more like “squirts on Mars.”

For my new story on this intriguing feature on the Red Planet, go to:

Mars’ Mysterious Dark Streaks Spur Exploration Debate
by Leonard David, Space.com’s Space Insider Columnist
September 23, 2015 07:11am ET

http://www.space.com/30618-mars-water-streaks-rsl-mystery.html

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