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Boffin retracts martian water claims

No puddles on Mars, after all

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Gosh darn it, there are no puddles on Mars after all.

The researcher responsible for announcing the discovery of standing water on the Martian surface has retracted his claims (see full piece on New Scientist's news blog), after readers of the August publication pointed out that the spot the "water" was standing on was not flat, but part of a sloping crater.

Rob Levin had based his analysis of the image on the assumption that the region was flat, or at least horizontal. He then identified the substance in the channels as water, based on the fact that all the edges of the surface are "in a plane and all at the same altitude".

But put the surface on a slope, and the analysis falls apart.

Levin says "I am sorry we made such a large mistake".

New Scientist, for its part, has decided to retract the original story. Space editor Maggie McKee writes: "We work extremely hard to publish accurate, timely, and interesting stories, so we regret the confusion this story has caused".

Say it isn't so, NS. The scientist's error is not the journalist's mistake. What was reported was accurate: boffin claims to have seen water on Mars, scientific community is sceptical. That is all still true, isn't it? ®

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