In high school, Lujendra Ojha hoped he might one day invent a time machine. A science-fiction fan, he was fascinated with ideas about string theory, multiple universes and time travel.
Ojha hasn't cracked those mysteries yet, but he did discover something else otherworldly: possible flows of saltwater on Mars.
The 21-year-old is a co-author of a new study in the journal Science suggesting that there is liquid water during warmer seasons on Mars. If it's there, this water probably would be briny, because studies have shown that Mars' surface is salty.
A native of Kathmandu, Nepal, Ojha has always been fascinated by mountains, especially since several of the world's tallest are in his country. He combined his interest in physics and geology by majoring in geosciences at the University of Arizona.
The Mars discovery came out of an independent project he was doing with professor Alfred McEwen, lead author of the new study published in Science. Their collaborator, University of Arizona researcher Colin Dundas, was interested in gullies on Mars, which may be remnants of past water activity. The researchers were looking for seasonal changes in those gullies.
Using a computer algorithm to examine images taken in the same crater as the gullies Dundas had examined, Ojha removed visual distortions, such as shadows, from images of a crater taken at different points in time. With that technique, he compared the images to identify the changes over time.
That's how Ojha noticed irregular features in the crater that weren't related to the gullies.
"When I first saw them, I had no idea what it was. I just thought it was a streak made by dust or something similar," he told CNN on Thursday after a NASA news conference. "It was a lucky accident."
It took McEwen's team months of research to figure out what it could be. In fact, scientists say, Ojha had found the first evidence of finger-like features on the slope of the crater that could be liquid briny water on Mars, although scientists do not know for sure. The source of this water could be below the surface, but that has yet to be determined, Ojha said.
"There's going to be years of research put into this to even prove that this is definitely a proof of water. And from that, we can move on: OK if this is water, what are the chances that life could be in these kinds of surroundings?" he said.
As for life on Mars, Ojha has his fingers crossed.
"That would be exciting. That’s kind of like the holy grail of science: To find our neighbor, to find life on some other planet," he said.
Ojha will graduate next year but isn't sure what's next - perhaps graduate school.
Not sure why scietists are searching water on mars. For live organism to survive a media is needed (in raw form to survive on earth – Fish needs water as a media to survive, Human needs oxygen /air to survive ) on same notion
to survive on mars we need to explore what media is avialable and then figure out whether human body can change itself to survive in that available media; that survival media on mars does not have to be water!
Sooooo........ he didnt discover water on Mars yet, just the 'possibility'. I can fix an Xbox with a hairdryer. Can I get my own article on CNN?
uh huh...did some one do a wegie on you brain?
What is Muslim type beard? How can he make it a Christian, Jewish or Hindu beard?
ah another bigot...we have a bad case of the bigot...where is the bigot-a-way spray...Essence of left wing liberal, Mr Rogers and Barney ...
That is extremely hillarious.
yes it would be to a 5 year old, bust most people develop past that. some don't.
After graduation, tea party is planning to deport him back to Nepal. We don't need scientists and bright people from other country to come and take our jobs.
Why did you come to this country then?
Cause i was born here... go ahead and ask me another stupid question.
LOL. Naaa he just have that beard as a style. He looks cool and definitely not a terrorist.
tapai ko yogyata ko sarai tarif garna chanchu, ho ahile nepali haru doctor , engineer , professor bhayeka chan tar yeo recogniztion chai pahil hola after CNN hero, I would like to congratulate you on your achievement and I know there will be lots of criticism that you will face on your way ahead, but just make sure what your goal is and your potential.
Find a razor dirtbag
Your the DirtBag!
Gee, all these negative comments! Let's us instead give this young man from Nepal a round of applause for taking an interest in a subject that most people find boring and unimportant. Who knows, maybe he'll be one of the lucky few to set foot on Mars one day.
Alteast Indians are smarter then your american heheheh slap on your face.. he did it without any expense..
cool article :)
Student may have found water on Mars – What was he doing on Mars?
he is NOT 21!! haha
It's too bad that the U.S. has gotten out of the manned space exploration business. It might've been nice to explore that planet and find out just how much of that purported water there is. At least the Chinese, Indians and Russians will be able to tell us about it.
All of you people who keep saying hes a terrorist are just grumpy old bags who follow the tea party and think everyone who isnt white is evil. I cant wait till the older, racist generation goes away.. it will be such a relief.
The guy is Hindu, just sayin'.
Are u talking about your parents?
Harold and Kumar: Beard Growers
He's done more with this than you've done, loser.
I agree with mars
dick head have some respect
No need to be racist
Um, yeah... The ICE caps are made of ice. What they are suggesting is the possibility of liquid water during the warmer seasons. It's called reading comprehension dude ;-)
It's significant because atmospheric pressure is too low in most places for liquid water. It typically sublimes directly from solid to gas. Please look at a phase diagram for water. Kthnxbye.
Thats pretty cool. Something this guy should be proud of. If you are not impressed and think this is nothing big then why click on it? Just move along and try to keep your silly smug comments stuffed in your big mouth – if at all possible
Oh hey look its Cap'n save a terrorist hahaha
In other news: Aliens invade earth and think the Chinese inhabited Asia first. Lawsuits follow.
I have not read it yet, but this sounds like a super cool article. Thank you CNN.
I done find water in my backyard one day an done remembered it done rained the night before. Amen
DON'T PRAISE DA DEBIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
PRAISE BE TO JESUS AN DA WATER DAT HE MAKE SO THE CATFISH CAN SWIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
He probably has briny water in his terrorist beard
You are a jerk.
SHUT UP U DUMB A**. If u call his a terrorist then what will u call Professor Calculus from TINTIN. And secondly he is not a Muslim , he is a Hindu, his name says it all.
Faaaaqqqq uuuuuuu ken hahhaha
No MarsMartian is a bigot and a simple minded individual. We shoudl pity him and his mama should wack him up the side of his head.
It's great to see a youngster like Lujendra is interested in science instead of all the bonehead activities that most teenager are involve with today.
I done found water in my backyard one day and remembered it had done rain da night before. Amen.
DON'T PRAISE DA DEBIL!!!!!!!!!
Nice job, good find. As a fellow undergrad researcher, I love seeing these stories. I think the lead professor deserves a bit more recognition in this story, though. They're the brains behind these projects, we're just the helping hands.
Are u a bit jealous?
nope, i've got my fair share of research to be proud of. I just know that it was only a result of my professor's guidance.
What I can't understand is how liquid water can exist in pools on the surface with that dry, thin atmosphere and low surface pressure? It seems like any standing liquid water would immediatly evaporate.
what i cant understand is why youre such an idiot
Same to you.
It's not in pools; the evidence for the water is circumstantial. The process that is causing this is still not understood.
Wait a minute... that looks like the dude from Harold and Kumar! ... does this mean we can expect a Harold and Kumar go to Mars!?
What a completely insignificant "discovery". What does he think the Martian ice caps are made of, cream cheese?
I agree. Ice caps (both north and south) were "discovered in the 1600's. We've been watching them grow and shrink for years.
No, it was assumed they were CO2, or "dry ice," or maybe frozen nitrogen. Water is not the only substance that freezes.
Except this is liquid water that they found not frozen and one of the caps is made of CO2, not water. So it is actually fairly significant if it's true.
He found sings of liquid water. The word 'liquid' is the key.
Are you completely daft? Of course this is significant since liquid water is a building block for life. Ever heard of the primordial soup? It's called a soup for a reason... and I think the fact that Science is publishing this lends more credence than your hyperbole.
I want to find a "cream cheese cap". I hope to find a gigantic bagel too, and I will be happy.
Slow news day 2 articles on this eh?
You and your buddy below are just embarrassments to human nature. Now go along, someone wants fries with that.
This is dumb, this has been talked about for years. I've seen the pics for years. and even better ones.. Not New!
h8ter, u mad bro?
Wow, someone's got sand in their panties
Actually, he's mad to be still be working at the last Blockbuster standing.
What a sad thing it is that this country, with the most successful space program in modern history, takes pride in nothing. Incurious, hostile to anything scientific and completely unaware of How Things Work. The young man should be proud of himself; commenters, not so sure.
Light Years strives to tell the stories of science research, discovery, space and education. This is your go-to place on CNN.com for today’s stories, but also for a scientific perspective on the news and everyday wonders. Come indulge your curiosity in all things space and science related, brought to you by the entire CNN family.
July 19thAtlas V launch of US DOD MUOS-2 satellite, notable for large "551" config of Atlas
Aug 3rdJapanese HTV-4 flight to ISS on cargo supply mission
Aug 14thSpaceX launch of Canadian satellite in the first launch from their new Vandenberg facility, and first launch of upgraded Falcon 9 v1.1 launch vehicle
Aug 28thDelta IV Heavy launch of NROL-65 spy satellite
SeptemberSoyuz TMA-08M flight returning Expedition 36 crew from ISS to Earth (Kazakhstan)
Sept 12thOrbital Sciences maiden flight of Cygnus cargo vehicle on Antares rocket to ISS
Sept 25thSoyuz TMA-10M flight launching Expedition 38 crew to ISS
Dec 9thSpaceX Dragon launch by Falcon 9 v1.1 on CRS-3 cargo supply mission to ISS
recurringfirst powered test flights of Scaled Composites' SpaceShipTwo commercial vehicle, to be used by Virgin Galactic for sub-orbital tourism