Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Unique Martian Formation Reveals Brief Bursts Of Water

Date:
February 21, 2008
Source:
Virginia Tech
Summary:
Several formations on Mars indicate incidents of rapid release of water from the planet's interior. Mars has many basins that contain formations that look like fans. A few of these fans, only about 10, have steps down into the basin. Since scientists first reported this feature three years ago, there has been no clear consensus on how they formed.

This photograph shows a delta (~40 cm across) with steps (about 2 cm in the highest places) draped over a mock crater formed in the Eurotank at Utrecht University. The unusual "stair step" shape is due to the fan depositing at the same time as the water level rises. Then the water flow into the channel is stopped and the water in the crater is allowed to drain by seeping into the floor.
Credit: Erin Kraal

Researchers from the United States and the Netherlands report that several formations on Mars indicate incidents of rapid release of water from the planet's interior. Mars has many basins that contain formations that look like fans. A few of these fans, only about 10, have steps down into the basin. Since scientists first reported this feature three years ago, there has been no clear consensus on how they formed.

Related Articles


So, following an example of a project they had created for high school students, geosciences faculty members at Utrecht University in the Netherlands reproduced the process. "There are no fans with steps on earth, so we had to build one," said Erin R. Kraal, now a geosciences research scientist at Virginia Tech.

In the article, "Martian stepped-delta formation by rapid water release," published in the Feb. 21, 2008, issue of Nature, Kraal and her Utrect colleagues, Maurits van Dijk, George Postma, and Maarten G. Kleinhans, describe how they made a stepped fan -- and what it says about at least one source of water on Mars.

In a room-sized sediment flume (5 by 12 meters or 16 by 40 feet), the researchers dug a crater in sand, then simulated water flow into the crater. "As the fan and the water level intersected, the steps appeared," Kraal said. "As the water flows in through a channel, it erodes the sediment. The water fans out and deposits the transported sediment as deltas, building steps down into the basin."

Once they established what had to happen to make a stepped fan in the lab, the scientists created sediment transport models and studied the morphology of the fans on Mars using satellite images and topographical date from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA). Based on fans of 20 kilometers in basins of 100 kilometers, they calculated the conditions for the creation of a stepped fan.

The researchers report that formation of stepped fans would only take 10s of years -- not the hundreds to millions of years estimated for other Mars hydrologic events. But it would require a lot of water. And it would be a one-time event -- the basin would not refill.

"Water volumes would be between that of the Mississippi River over the course of 10 years or the Rhine River flowing for 100 years into a 62-mile wide basin," Kraal said.

But, looking at an image from Mars, the water channel looks nothing like the Mississippi River -- being hundreds of times smaller than such a river. "We suggest the water was released internally, such as hydrothermal water suddenly pushed to the surface," Kraal said.

She said that there are features on Mars that look like they could come from weather, but stepped fans do not.

And that high school project? The Utrecht research team cooperated with the European Geosciences Union to provide information about Mars for an EGU outreach project. Then when the Journal for Young Scientists wanted to create a movie about how fans form, the researchers arranged for the students to be filmed as they built a crater at the Eurotank lab at Utrecht and ran water into it. "At the end of the day, we discovered we had steps," said Kraal. "The next week we started the official controlled experiments. We tested other ways to make stepped fans but this was the best way."

Kraal has been at Virginia Tech since August 2007. She is continuing to study fans in general, and in Earth's extremely arid areas in particular, which are an analog for the conditions on Mars.

Fans are only one aspect of her study of surface process on earth and across all planets. "I find it interesting that we can look at the same processes across planets. For instance, there appears there are fans on Titan, where the fundamental variables -- gravity, the type of rock, the atmosphere -- are so different," said Kraal. "It is interesting to change the fundamental variables and look at such processes as landslides or how big scarps retreat. On Earth, vegetation has a tremendous impact on such processes. On Mars, we have purer conditions, without the influence of vegetation, allowing us to look at surfaces without this variable."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Virginia Tech. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Virginia Tech. "Unique Martian Formation Reveals Brief Bursts Of Water." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080220132618.htm>.
Virginia Tech. (2008, February 21). Unique Martian Formation Reveals Brief Bursts Of Water. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080220132618.htm
Virginia Tech. "Unique Martian Formation Reveals Brief Bursts Of Water." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080220132618.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: China Launches Moon Orbiter

Raw: China Launches Moon Orbiter

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) — China launched an experimental spacecraft Friday to fly around the moon and back to Earth in preparation for the country's first unmanned return trip to the lunar surface. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
China Prepares Unmanned Mission To Lunar Orbit

China Prepares Unmanned Mission To Lunar Orbit

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) — The mission is China's next step toward automated sample-return missions and eventual manned missions to the moon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 22, 2014) — Russian cosmonauts Maxim Suraev and Alexander Samokutyaev step outside the International Space Station to perform work on the exterior of the station's Russian module. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — A comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system passed extremely close to Mars this weekend, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to study it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins