(ORDO NEWS) — The large number of river valley networks that carve the surface of Mars were formed by the movement of liquid water under a layer of water ice, rather than across the open surface of the planet, as previously thought, according to new research.
These findings call into question the popular today hypothesis of “warm and humid ancient Mars”, according to which once rivers flowed on the Red Planet, it rained and there were oceans of liquid water.
To this conclusion, a team of researchers led by Anna Grau Galofre from the University of British Columbia, Canada, came as a result of applying their new method to the study of thousands of Martian river valleys. Grau Galofre and her coauthors also compared the Martian valleys with the subglacial channels of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and found surprising similarities.
The main idea of the study was to find out the nature of each individual river valley on the surface of Mars.
On Earth, the morphology of river valleys differs markedly depending on their origin. So, the shape of the earth’s valleys, formed as a result of the movement of open rivers, differs from the shape of the valleys formed as a result of melting of glaciers or other process.
By applying the classification criteria developed for terrestrial river valleys to images reflecting the morphology of 10,000 Martian valleys, the authors of the work found that most of these valleys were formed according to the formation of subglacial channels, that is, as a result of the movement of water flows under the ice layer.
It should be noted, however, that these results do not reduce the likelihood of life forms on ancient Mars, but, on the contrary, increase it, since a layer of ice could provide Martian organisms with protection from harmful radiation coming from space.
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