Massive Mud Volcanoes may have Helped Shape Mars - Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion May 20, 2020

Features on Mars thought to be caused by lava were, in fact, the result of massive mud flows, a new study reveals.

Researchers study canyons on Mars by playing with mud in a laboratory. How did mud volcanoes affect the Red Planet?

By James Maynard

This mud volcano in Azerbaijan may be similar to features seen on Mars, and other small, frozen worlds around the Solar System. Image credit: Petr Brož Czech Academy of Sciences

Mud volcanoes on Mars could be the cause of distinctive features that most researchers had thought were left over from ancient lava flows. Tens of thousands of channels spread out over the Martian surface. Hundreds of kilometers long, and tens of miles wide, these ribbon canyons reach far across the ruddy landscape of Mars.

Planetary science suggests these features were carved out as massive floods, comparable in size to the largest ever seen on Earth, tore across the surface of Mars long ago. As the water settled into the Martian crust, it (naturally) formed mud. Rapid freezing could have led to eruptions of mud in the regions, the study concludes.

“The rapid burial of water-rich sediments after such flooding could have led to sedimentary volcanism, in which mixtures of sediment and water (mud) erupt to the surface. Tens of thousands of volcano-like landforms populate the northern lowlands and other local [high sediment regions] on Mars,” researchers explained in an article published in Nature Geoscience.

Using the Mars Chamber at the Open University, researchers developed simulations of mud moving across the surface of the Red Planet. These models simulated frigid temperatures, as well as low pressures, like those seen today on Mars.

Read more:

Coming May 26: An interview with Dr. Alejandro Soto of the Southwest Research Institute, talking about water on Mars, and how salty conditions there could affect exploration of the Red Planet.

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