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 30, 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 30, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Water You Drink Might Be Older Than The Sun

The Water You Drink Might Be Older Than The Sun

Newsy (Sep. 27, 2014) — Researchers at the University of Michigan simulated the birth of planets and our sun to determine whether water in the solar system predates the sun. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Woman Cosmonaut in 17 Years Blasts Off for ISS

First Woman Cosmonaut in 17 Years Blasts Off for ISS

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) — A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying an American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts, including the first woman cosmonaut in 17 years, blasted off on schedule Friday. Duration: 00:35 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Water Discovery On Small Planet Could Be Key To Earth 2.0

Water Discovery On Small Planet Could Be Key To Earth 2.0

Newsy (Sep. 25, 2014) — Scientists have discovered traces of water in the atmosphere of a distant, Neptune-sized planet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: US-Russian Crew Lifts Off for Space Station

Raw: US-Russian Crew Lifts Off for Space Station

AP (Sep. 25, 2014) — A U.S.-Russian space crew has blasted off successfully for the International Space Station. The Russian Soyuz-TMA14M spacecraft lifted off from the Russian-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan. (Sept. 25) Video provided by AP
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