Important role of groundwater springs in shaping Mars

Dec 11, 2008
Mars

Data and images from Mars Express suggest that several Light Toned Deposits, some of the least understood features on Mars, were formed when large amounts of groundwater burst on to the surface. Scientists propose that groundwater had a greater role in shaping the martian surface than previously believed, and may have sheltered primitive life forms as the planet started drying up.

Light Toned Deposits (LTDs) - martian sediments that most closely resemble sediments on Earth - are some of the most mysterious sediments on Mars. Causes for their origin remain unknown. Until now, different mechanisms, including volcanic processes, have been proposed for their formation.

LTDs were first discovered by the Viking spacecraft in the late 1970s and have since been at the centre of scientific debate. These deposits occur on a large scale in Arabia Terra, Chaotic Terrain and Valles Marineris, close to the Tharsis volcanic bulge.

Now, based on Mars Express data, scientists propose that these sediments are actually younger than originally believed. Rossi and colleagues report their findings in a paper published in September this year. They have proposed that several LTDs may have been deposited by large-scale springs of groundwater that burst on to the surface, possibly at different times.

Analysis indicates that ground water had a more wide-ranging and important role in martian history than previously believed. Hydrated minerals, relatively young in age, have been found in the region.

Given that the deposits are relatively young in age, and associated with water, they may also have sheltered microbial life from the drier and harsher climate in more recent times on Mars, possibly eliminating the need for a stable atmosphere or a permanent water body.

Source: European Space Agency

Explore further: SpaceX making Easter delivery of station supplies (Update 2)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Charting the slopes of sediment transport

Jan 29, 2014

In the Earth Surface Dynamics Lab at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) the behavior of rivers is modeled through the use of artificial rivers—flumes—through which water can be pumped at ...

Decade-old rover adventure continues on Mars and Earth

Jan 06, 2014

(Phys.org) —Eighth graders didn't have Facebook or Twitter to share news back then, in January 2004. Bekah Sosland, 14 at the time, learned about a NASA rover landing on Mars when the bouncing-ball video ...

Pilbara home to 3.5 billion-year-old bacterial ecosystems

Nov 11, 2013

(Phys.org) —Evidence of complex microbial ecosystems dating back almost 3.5 billion years has been found in Western Australia's Pilbara region by an international team including UWA Research Assistant Professor ...

Martian scars

Oct 11, 2013

Ripped apart by tectonic forces, Hebes Chasma and its neighbouring network of canyons bear the scars of the Red Planet's early history.

Recommended for you

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

22 hours ago

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

The importance of plumes

Apr 18, 2014

The Hubble Space Telescope is famous for finding black holes. It can pick out thousands of galaxies in a patch of sky the size of a thumbprint. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Hubble provided ...

Ceres and Vesta Converge in Virgo

Apr 18, 2014

Don't let them pass you by. Right now and continuing through July, the biggest and brightest asteroids will be running on nearly parallel tracks in the constellation Virgo and so close together they'll easily ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...