Satellite photos of the arid, desert surface of Mars may show signs of a creeping oasis, according to research from a team of scientists in the United States.

The photos show dark, slow-moving stains of what appears to be liquid flowing down the sides of martian craters.

The red planet has two domes of ice and barren canyons that suggest water once flowed across its surface. New evidence suggests there is seasonal surface liquid, which, if confirmed, could strengthen the possibility of finding life on Mars.

John Spray, chair of the Planetary and Space Sciences Centre at the University of New Brunswick, said the idea of water on Mars isn’t a new one.

Deep channels, similar to ones carved out by mighty rivers on Earth, have scientists placing the last time water flowed on Mars at around four billion years ago, he said.

Spray, whose research is primarily focused on impact craters on Mars and the moon, said the surface rock of Mars is “rubbleized,” cracked open after being “pummelled” by meteorites. Because of this, the planet’s surface is porous, he said, like a sponge.

He said the new findings show ice trapped under the ground’s surface melting from the sun’s heat. He likened it to putting a wet sponge in a freezer, and then letting the frozen sponge sit in the sun.

“If you put it outside in the sun,” he said, “it will trickle down onto the table… That’s what’s happening here.”

Read the full story at the Telegraph-Journal website.

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