On the surface of Mars, there are tens of thousands of such landforms, often located where there are massive channels dug in the surface of the planet by ancient fluids flowing downstream.
These channels are extremely long, extending many hundreds of kilometers in length and usually more than tens of kilometers in width. They are believed to be the result of massive floods spanning huge volumes of water, comparable to the largest floods that have ever occurred on Earth. When water seeps into the bowels, it may reappear as dirt.
Currently, a European team of researchers simulated the movement of dirt on the surface of Mars, the results of which are published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
The study was led by the Institute of Geophysics of the Czech Academy of Sciences in collaboration with Lancaster University, Rutherford Appleton Open University in the UK, CNRS in France, DLR and Munster University in Germany and CEED in Norway.
Using the Martian chamber at Open University, scientists recreated surface temperature and atmospheric pressure on Mars as part of a simulation of conditions on both Earth and Mars.
Lionel Wilson, Emeritus Professor of Earth and Planet Sciences at Lancaster University, said: “We conducted experiments in a vacuum chamber to simulate the flows of dirt on Mars. This is of great interest to us because we see many similar flows on Mars, in pictures from spacecraft, but these places have not yet been visited by any of the spacecraft on the surface, and there is some uncertainty as to whether they are really lava or mud flows. ”
Scientists conducted experiments at low pressure and extremely low temperatures (-20 ° C) to recreate the Martian environment. They found that freely flowing mud in Martian conditions behaves differently than on Earth, due to rapid freezing and the formation of an ice crust on the surface of the stream. This is because the water is not stable and begins to boil and evaporate. Evaporation removes heat from the mud, eventually causing it to freeze.
Under Martian conditions, experimental mud flows formed the same forms as pahoehoe lava, which is often found in Hawaii or Iceland on Earth, which cools down to form smooth wavy surfaces. In an experiment, this happened when liquid mud poured out of tears in a frozen crust, and then froze again.
However, under terrestrial atmospheric pressure, the experimental mud flows did not form lava forms, did not expand, and did not have ice crust even in very cold conditions.
This “sedimentary volcanism” probably takes place on the dwarf planet Ceres, which is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and may have a muddy ocean of water under an ice crust.
Dr. Peter Broz, lead author of the study, said: “We suggest that mud volcanism can explain the formation of some resemblances to lava flows on Mars, and that similar processes may relate to mud eruptions on ice bodies in the outer solar system, such as Ceres.”
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