Mars is a mysterious planet that constantly attracts the attention of scientists. One of the most interesting features of this planet are the ravines that cut through the walls of impact craters. But how did they form? A study conducted by scientists from Brown University offers a new explanation for this phenomenon.
The researchers focused on Martian gullies, which are very similar to gullies formed on Earth by melting glaciers. They built a model that simulates conditions for the surface of Mars to warm above freezing temperatures, leading to periods of liquid water and melting ice.
One of the key factors affecting the formation of gullies is the tilt of Mars’ axis. When the planet tilts 35 degrees, the atmosphere becomes dense, which contributes to brief episodes of ice melt. Researchers compared their model data to periods in Mars’ history when gullies expanded rapidly.
“We know from our research that early in the history of Mars, there was flowing water on the surface with valleys and lakes. But about 3 billion years ago, all that liquid water was lost, and Mars became a super-arid desert. But our study shows that even after that and in the recent past, Mars warmed up enough to melt snow and ice, bringing liquid water back,” says Jim Head, professor of geological sciences at Brown.
The findings help fill gaps in information about the origins of the gullies. Scientists now know that gully formation is related to periods of ice melt and carbon dioxide evaporation at different times of the year. They have also found that these events have occurred repeatedly over the past few million years, most recently about 630,000 years ago.
This discovery has important implications for understanding climate change on Mars and its potential to support life. Although the planet is now considered a super-arid desert, its past may be more encouraging. The study shows that Mars had periods with warm water and opportunities for life to develop.
“Our work helps us better understand Mars’ past and its potential to support life. We continue to explore this amazing planet and hope to uncover even more of its secrets,” notes Jim Head.