Researchers have concluded that the enigmatic tracks seen on the surface of the red planet were caused by boiling water from underground reservoirs. What other secrets is the red planet hiding?
Its, not news that there is liquid water found on the surface of the red planet. However, what is news is that researchers have discovered that there are subsurface water reservoirs that boil and cause pretty strange features on the surface of Mars.
Scientists at the Open University in the UK conducted a series of experiments to try and determine how a set of mysterious tracks on the surface of the planet were formed. Initially, it was believed that they were caused by the flow of salt water. However, new evidence led to another reason.
It turns out that the water seeping across the planet’s surface during summer on Mars boils so violently it blasts dust of the ground, leading to the formation of the mystery tracks that have baffled scientists ever since the first time they were spotted on Mars.
Researchers believe that the seasonal tracks are formed in the Martian summer months and can grow for hundreds of meters, down cliffs, gullies, and crater wall son the surface of the planet, before they disappear in the harsh Martian winter.
Thanks to countless images taken from orbit, researchers have discovered evidence that the enigmatic streak was formed by flowing water on Mars. However, researchers have struggled to explain how these mystery marks grow so large.
That is why Marion Massé at the University of Nantes and her colleagues used an environmental chamber in order to recreate the low atmospheric pressure that rules on Mars. Due to the fact that Mars is surrounded by a thin shroud of gas, its atmospheric pressure is half a percent of that found on our planet.
Experiments demonstrated that water is flowing through the sediments just beneath the surface boiled violently enough to propel dust grains off the Martian soil and into miniature heaps that eventually kick-started mini avalanches.
This discovery will force researchers to rethink their estimates of the amount of water flowing on Mars since the channels on the red planet are deeper than previously believed.
Video footage of the experiment clearly shows grains of sediment propelled into the air before landing on the surface, forming ridges that grow higher and higher until they eventually collapse, creating a miniature avalanche that sends material downhill.
Marion Massé concluded that the process could play a role in the formation of streaks on Mars.
“If you have boiling water, jumping grains, and these avalanches, you get something much, much bigger than with water alone,” said Susan Conway, a co-author on the study.
However, the source of the water creating the streaks is unclear. Researchers speculate that it may condense out of the thin Martian atmosphere as pure water, or rise as salty brines from underground Martian reservoirs.
Commenting on the discovery, Wouter Marra from the University of Utrecht said that it is possible that the rapid boiling water beneath the Red Planet’s surface could help explain other geological feature on the surface of our neighbouring planet.
Check out the video from the experiment: