US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — The northern lowlands and sedimentary regions of Mars are dotted with curious formations. Tens of thousands of conical hills, many of which are covered with small craters and surrounded by deep channels washed by fluid fluid.
This is very similar to terrestrial volcanoes – but on a planet such as Mars, where conditions can be very different from terrestrial, you should be wary of making assumptions.
Objects on Mars may resemble lava flows, but on Earth there is also a type of volcano that spews out, something completely different – muddy mud.
And scientists have just discovered that at very low atmospheric pressures and temperature conditions on Mars, mud can flow quite differently. In fact, it can look a lot like lava.
“We conducted experiments in a vacuum chamber to simulate the release of dirt on Mars,” said planetary scientist Lionel Wilson of Lancaster University in the UK.
“This is of interest because we see many objects similar to the flows on Mars in the images of spacecraft, but they have not yet been visited by any of the rovers, and there is some uncertainty as to whether they are flows of lava or mud.”
Scientists suggest that large amounts of water once flowed freely on the surface of Mars, and later were covered with volcanic activity and precipitation.
But wet sediments trapped beneath the surface could later be pushed out by underground pressure, creating mud volcanoes. This is what researchers want to find out.
The experimental setup consisted of a cylindrical low-pressure chamber with a diameter of 90 centimeters and a length of 180 centimeters. The experiment was conducted under a pressure of 7 millibars to simulate the atmospheric pressure of Mars for 15 experiments and 1000 millibars to simulate the atmospheric pressure of the Earth at sea level for 6 experiments.
In both cases, the mud was poured with sand, cooled to a temperature corresponding to the surface temperature of Mars, -20 degrees Celsius. The researchers then studied and characterized how dirt flowed over this surface.
Under terrestrial conditions, mud flows did not expand, did not form an ice crust and did not create lava-like flows. But mud flows under Martian conditions did this – due to lower atmospheric pressure.
When atmospheric pressure decreases, the boiling point of water also decreases. This is why water boils at a lower temperature at high altitudes; if you were in space without protective equipment, saliva would boil right from your tongue (among other, more deadly things).
The water in the mud begins to boil and evaporate, and this process absorbs the latent heat of the vapor. This cools the dirt and the bark freezes on its surface.
Mud flows behave similar to the Pahoehoe lava flows seen in Hawaii and Iceland. Dirt from under the bottom, breaks through the ice crust, flows out and freezes again into a new stream blade. But, although the process is similar, the shape of the mudflows is different.
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