- Researchers reveal how 262 broken lakes on the Red Planet shaped its surface
- They claim that the river valleys were formed by the water released into the huge pits.
- This water eroded natural Martian sediments to leave deep river basins
- 3.5 billion years ago, water moved around Mars between crater lakes via rivers
A new study says that the surface of Mars was engulfed 3.5 billion years ago by rapid and fierce floods from overflowing lakes.
Researchers in Texas have used satellite images to determine how 262 broken lakes on the Red Planet shaped the surface of Mars.
They say the floods, which probably lasted only weeks, destroyed more than enough sediment to completely fill Lake Superior and Lake Ontario.
Although there is no liquid water on Mars today, about 4.3 billion years ago the Red Planet had enough water to cover its entire surface in a liquid layer about 450 feet (137 meters) deep, according to NASA.
Fast forward 3.5 billion years ago, and this water was more scarce – via rivers around the planet between crater lakes, much like Earth today.
The flooding of these lakes created river valleys, on either side of which were high walls of jagged rock, much like Earth’s own impressive modern canyons.
Color topographic image showing river valleys on Mars. Outlet Canyon Loire Valais (white line) is formed by the overflow of a lake in the Paraná Basin (outlined in white). Black lines indicate other river basins formed by processes other than lake overflow. The image is approximately 400 miles (650 kilometers) across.
Mars was not always one big dry rusty rock like it is today. Perhaps about 4.3 billion years ago, Mars would have had enough water to cover its entire surface in a liquid layer about 450 feet (137 m) deep.
river valleys on mars
The crater highlands of Mars have several river basins that formed in a water-rich environment about 4.5 to 3.7 billion years ago.
Since then erosion has been slow, thereby preserving these old features.
Later, massive outflows of groundwater created flood channels tens to hundreds of kilometers wide and perhaps over 1,000 kilometers (620 mi) long.
River valley networks begin near crater rims and other high ranges and wind through the crater landscape.
Source: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
Lead author Tim Gouz, an assistant professor in the UT Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas, said, “If we think about how sediment was being transported across the landscape on ancient Mars, the flooding of the lake was a really important process. ” Austin.
‘And this is a slightly surprising result because they have been treated as one-sided anomalies for so long.’
Researchers believe that the severe flooding was triggered either by flooding into the interior of the crater lake, from where it began to spread to the shore; Or as the lake filled with water, the pressure of that water inside the crater caused the crater rim to fail, forcing the water out.
‘Either way, once the water begins to flow out of the lake, it will rapidly begin to carve an exit crack and canyon, allowing more water to flow out, and then in a runaway process. will continue until it is eventually destroyed in some way. ,’ Professor Gauge told MailOnline.
The researcher also said that he thinks there was more water available in the early history of Mars, but it never completely covered the planet.
On Earth, river erosion—the continuous sliding of river beds and banks by the force of water—is a generally slow process.
Over the years and years, the coastal land subsides as the force of the water breaks up the sediment.
But on Mars, massive flooding from overflowing crater lakes played a big role in shaping the Martian surface, carving deep trenches, and moving large amounts of sediment.
Crater lakes were common on Mars billions of years ago when there was liquid water on the surface of the Red Planet. Some craters can hold as much water as a small ocean.
But when the water gets too high, it breaks the edge of the crater, causing catastrophic flooding, in which river valleys are carved in its wake.
a 2019 Study Led by Gauge, published in the journal Geology, it was determined that these events occurred rapidly.
Remote sensing images taken by satellites orbiting Mars have allowed scientists to study the remains of broken Martian crater lakes.
Remains of a former crater lake on Mars surrounded by other smaller craters. Large outlet canyon formed during the crater breach event (blurred blue dent in upper left)
Global map of Mars showing the river basins around the Red Planet. The river valleys formed by the break-up of the crater lake are in white. Gradually formed river valleys have turned black over time
Mars is ‘too small’ to retain liquid water, study says
Mars once used to have liquid water, but is now an arid desert landscape – and that may be because it is too small to retain moisture, says a 2021 study.
About half the size of Earth, Mars sits at the very outer edge of the habitable zone where liquid water can ‘flow’.
There is ‘anecdotal evidence’ that Mars once had liquid water, including at Jezero Crater, where the Perseverance rover is now based, but this study shows it did not last long.
Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis studied the chemical makeup of Mars meteorites.
These rocks showed that the composition of Mars did not contain the necessary chemicals to hold water for long periods of time.
Read more: Mars is ‘too small’ to retain liquid water, according to study
However, crater lakes and their river basins have mostly been studied on an individual basis, Gauz said.
This is the first study to examine how the Red Planet’s 262 broken lakes shaped the surface of Mars as a whole.
For the study, researchers reviewed a pre-existing catalog of river basins on Mars…