(ORDO NEWS) — New research suggests that many of the Red Planet’s valleys were gouged out by glaciers rather than rivers.
The study, published in Nature Geoscience , set against the backdrop of a slew of new missions to Mars trying to figure out where life ever existed on the now barren planet, challenges the dominant theory that the planet once had a warm, humid climate with liquid water that created the landscape.
Researchers from Canada and the United States have studied over 10,000 Martian valleys and compared them to channels on Earth that were created by glaciers.
“Over the past 40 years since the valleys of Mars were discovered, it has been assumed that rivers once flowed on the Red Planet, eroding and creating them,” lead author Anna Grau Galofre said in a statement released by the University of British Columbia.
But these formations are very diverse, “which suggests the participation of different phenomena,” she added.
Researchers have found similarities between some of the Martian valleys and the subglacial channels of Devon Island in the Arctic, nicknamed “Mars on Earth” for similar climatic conditions.
The study authors say the results indicate that some of the Martian valleys may have formed about 3.8 billion years ago due to melt water beneath ice sheets, which they say is consistent with climate simulations predicting that the planet was much cooler in its own right. ancient past.
“The results show that only a small fraction of the valleys are consistent with surface water erosion, which is in stark contrast to conventional thinking,” said co-author Mark Jellinek.
Nature Geoscience notes that understanding climatic conditions “during the first billion years of Mars’ history is important in determining whether a planet was ever habitable.”
The study authors say cold temperatures could actually better support life.
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