Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Widespread glacial meltwater valleys found on Mars

Date:
June 24, 2010
Source:
Brown University
Summary:
Scientists have documented dozens of channels carved by melted water from glaciers located in the midlatitude region of Mars. The glaciofluvial valleys were carved in Mars' most recent epoch, the team reports, supporting the idea that the Red Planet was home to diverse watery environments in its recent past.

Glacial Rivers. Brown University researchers have found evidence that melting glaciers spawned rivers on Mars as recently as several hundred million years ago. This image shows a river that sprang from a past glacier from an unnamed crater in Mars' middle latitudes.
Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS

A research team led by Brown University has documented dozens of channels carved by melted water from glaciers located in the midlatitude region of Mars. The glaciofluvial valleys were carved in Mars' most recent epoch, the team reports, supporting the idea that the Red Planet was home to diverse watery environments in its recent past. Results are published in Icarus.

Planetary scientists have uncovered telltale signs of water on Mars -- frozen and liquid -- in the earliest period of the Red Planet's history. A new claim, made public this month, is that a deep ocean covered some of the northern latitudes.

But the evidence for water grows much more scant after the Noachian era, which ended 3.5 billion years ago. Now Brown University planetary geologists have documented running water that sprang from glaciers throughout the Martian middle latitudes as recently as the Amazonian epoch, several hundred million years ago. These glaciofluvial valleys were, in essence, tributaries of water created when enough sunlight reached the glaciers to melt a thin layer on the surface. This, the Brown researchers write, led to "limited surface melting" that formed channels that ran for several kilometers and could be more than 150 feet wide.

The finding is "more than 'Yes, we found water,'" said Caleb Fassett, postdoctoral research associate in geological sciences and lead author of the paper published in Icarus. "What we see now is there's this complex history of different environments where water is being formed."

Caleb Fassett, with Brown research analyst James Dickson, professor James Head III, and geologists from Boston University and Portland State University, analyzed 15,000 images snapped by the Context Camera (CTX) aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to compile the first survey of glaciofluvial valleys on Mars. The survey was sparked by a glaciofluvial valley that Dickson, Fassett, and Head spotted within the Lyot crater, located in the planet's middle latitudes. The team, in a paper last year in Geophysical Research Letters, dated that meltwater-inspired feature to the Amazonian.

In his survey, Fassett found dozens of other Amazonian-era ice deposits that spawned supraglacial and proglacial valleys, most of them located on the interior and exterior of craters in Mars' midlatitude belt. "The youthfulness (of the features) is surprising," he said. "We think of [post-Noachian] Mars as really, really cold and really, really dry, so the fact that these exist, in those kinds of conditions, is changing how we view the history of water on the planet."

What makes the finding even more intriguing is that the Brown planetary scientists can study what they believe are similar conditions on Earth. Teams from Brown and Boston University have visited the Antarctic Dry Valleys for years, where the surfaces of glaciers melt during the austral summer, sparking enough meltwater to carve a channel. The team will return to the Dry Valleys later this year to continue the study of this microclimate.

"It's sort of crazy," said Dickson, a member of the Brown team who stayed in the Dry Valleys for three months last year. "You're freezing cold and there's glacial ice everywhere, and it gets just warm enough that you get a river."

Fassett plans to search for more glaciofluvial valleys as more images come from the CTX, which has mapped roughly 40 percent of the planet.

Contributing authors include Joseph Levy of Portland State (who earned his Ph.D. at Brown last year) and James Marchant of Boston University. The research was funded by NASA.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Fassett et al. Supraglacial and proglacial valleys on Amazonian Mars. Icarus, 2010; 208 (1): 86 DOI: 10.1016/j.icarus.2010.02.021

Cite This Page:

Brown University. "Widespread glacial meltwater valleys found on Mars." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100624092518.htm>.
Brown University. (2010, June 24). Widespread glacial meltwater valleys found on Mars. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 15, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100624092518.htm
Brown University. "Widespread glacial meltwater valleys found on Mars." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100624092518.htm (accessed September 15, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Monday, September 15, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

SpaceX's Elon Musk Really Wants To Colonize Mars

SpaceX's Elon Musk Really Wants To Colonize Mars

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) Elon Musk has been talking about his goal of colonizing Mars for years now, but how much of it does he actually have figured out, and is it possible? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
International Space Station Crew Returns Safely To Earth

International Space Station Crew Returns Safely To Earth

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) The three-man crew touched down in Kazakhstan Wednesday after more than five months of science experiments in orbit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Solar Storm To Hit This Weekend, Scientists Not Worried

Solar Storm To Hit This Weekend, Scientists Not Worried

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) Two solar flares which erupted in our direction this week will arrive this weekend. The resulting solar storm will be powerful but not dangerous. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Solar Flare Surges Off Sun

Solar Flare Surges Off Sun

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 11, 2014) NASA captures video of a significant flare surging off the sun. Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
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:
from the past week

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