NASA today made a very brief announcement that it’s preparing to share details of a “major science finding” early next week.
The space agency gave out a list of participants who will speak, and notice of a “brief question-and-answer session”, so there’s not a lot to go on.
But a couple of names on the list have journalists and bloggers speculating that NASA is about announce it has found evidence of water on Mars. Possibly even flowing water.
Lujendra Ojha is a grad student and PhD candidate in planetary science at Georgia Tech.
But it was as an undergrad at the University of Arizona where Ohja made a lot of headlines in 2011. At 21, the science fiction fan and Nepal native co-authored a study that suggested liquid water flowed during the warmer months on Mars.
“It was a lucky accident,” he told CNN at the time. Ohja had noticed irregular features in images taken for another study of gullies in Mars craters by UA researcher Colin Dundas.
As the images had been taken over time, they varied due to a range of distortions, such as shadows. Ohja one day decided to start removing the distortions using a computer algorithm, just to see if any changes could be noticed over time.
“Finger-like” features materialised over time, and they weren’t related to the gullies Dundas was interested in.
“When I first saw them, I had no idea what it was,” he told CNN. “I just thought it was a streak made by dust or something similar.”
Where the water was coming from was still up for debate. As Ohja said at the time:
“There’s going to be years of research put into this to even prove that this is definitely a proof of water.”
And obviously, where there’s water, there’s always the prospect of life.
On Tuesday, September 29, at 1am (AEST), we may find out.