NASA's press release: MOC Images Suggest Recent Sources of Liquid Water on Mars

MGS MOC Releases MOC2-234 to MOC2-245, 22 June 2000

Gullies seen on martian cliffs and crater walls in a small number of high-resolution images from the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) suggest that liquid water has seeped onto the surface in the geologically recent past. The gully landforms are usually found on slopes facing away from mid-day sunlight, and most occur between latitudes 30° and 70° in both martian hemispheres. The relationship to sunlight and latitude may indicate that ice plays a role in protecting the liquid water from evaporation until enough pressure builds for it to be released catastrophically down a slope. The relative freshness of these features might indicate that some of them are still active today--meaning that liquid water may presently exist in some areas at depths of less than 500 meters (1640 feet) beneath the surface of Mars.

The evidence for recent water activity is described in a paper by MGS MOC scientists being published in the June 30, 2000, issue of Science. The gullies are rare landforms that are too small to have been detected by the cameras of the Mariner and Viking spacecraft that examined the planet prior to MGS.