Science

Mystery of lava-like flows on Mars is finally solved

Mystery of lava-like flows on Mars is finally solved”

A group of global researchers analyzing Mars' composition recently found that the lava-like flows observed on the distant planet's surface are more than likely caused by mud, not molten rock.

As geophysicist Petr Brož of the Czech Academy of Sciences said, "our experiments show that even a process as apparently simple as the flow of mud - something that many of us have experienced for ourselves since we were children - would be very different on Mars".

Tens of thousands of conical hills populate the northern highlands of Mars, often with a small crater at their summit. Until now experts did not know whether these unusual landforms with the outpouring of magma or by breakthrough of liquid mud.

The scientists learned that upon pouring the mud under Martian conditions, it immediately formed clumps and various shapes. But none of the researchers he asked for knew.

In order to test what would happen with this theoretical mud, Broz communicated with Manish Patel, a senior lecturer of planetary sciences at The Open University who has also conducted researchers on various instruments for robotic space missions, including the ExoMars rover, which will be launched in 2022 by the European Space Agency.

The team used chambers that simulated conditions at the surface of Mars, including extremely cold temperatures of -20 °C (-4 °F) and low pressure.

The experiment results could now make some investigations on Mars harder. They have a special chamber that can recreate the Martian environment. Surprisingly, the mud didn't freeze immediately. These shells would then break open and release more liquid mud, which would go on to refreeze further down. This caused the mud to cool and freeze.

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Brož did not expect the mud to move like lava on other planets and said that this "shook my world a little".

We have mud volcanoes here on Earth, so it's not such a huge surprise that they could be forming on other planets too. "Sedimentary volcanoes work like an underground window", he said.

"These observations revolutionise the interpretation of many surface features mapped on the Martian surface". And this could have led to sedimentary volcanism, where pieces of rock and water explode like mud. Some Mars researchers suspect that these water-rich sediments turned liquefied underground and rose again to the floor below stress - just like the recent "mud spring" at Bakhar in Azerbaijan (diameter roughly 1.5 metres). Under such circumstances, liquid water on the Martian floor will not be steady and begins to boil and evaporate. This would mean that the mudflows would remain where it is on the surface. And if it is sedimentary or muddy, this suggests liquid water - and heat that keeps the liquid water below the surface.

Some features on its surface, such as the Ahuna Mons mountain, as well as the luminous deposits in the Occatore crater, could be caused by water, rocks and salts brought to the surface. Studies have even suggested that somewhere on the planet a volcano erupted for two billion years straight.

The same could be true of other frozen moons, such as the moon of Jupiter Europe, the moon of Saturn Enceladus or the moon Triton of Uranus.

Scientists discovered how mudflows emitted by volcanoes on Mars behave once they get exposed to the Red Planet's environmental conditions. Apart from the gravity on Mars, which could not be simulated, this experimental setup was somewhat reminiscent of building a large sandcastle under Mars-like conditions.



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