The Ancient Valleys on Mars had formed from sheets of Ice, not rivers.

Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash

Recent research is changing what we think of Mars billions of years ago

A new study by a group of Canadian researchers, published in the journal Nature Geoscience on August 3, 2020, found that ancient valleys on Mars had not resulted from flowing rivers, as earlier research suggests. Rather, it formed due to the melt of the water under huge sheets of ice.

The new research contradicts the hypothesis of “the ancient warm and humid Mars” that claims that Mars was covered with huge rivers fed by rain and large oceans with flowing water.

The study also follows a recent analysis of the high-resolution images collected by the Hirose camera on NASA’s Mars Orbiter reconnaissance vehicle, which concluded that large rivers may have run on the surface of Mars billions of years ago.

“For the past forty years, since the valleys of Mars were first discovered, rivers were supposed to flow onto Mars, causing In the process of eroding and breeding all these valleys. ”

To reach this conclusion, Grau Gallover and her team compared more than ten thousand Martian valleys with the canals formed under the glaciers of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. The surprise was that these canals were very similar.

“There are hundreds of valleys on Mars, and they look different from each other. If you look at the Earth from the satellite, you will see a lot of valleys that have been divided by rivers, including those formed by glaciers, and some of them are due to other phenomena, and each type has a characteristic of it.”

“The results of this research are the first evidence that the extensive erosion under the ice is caused by a burst of discharging meltwater under the ancient ice sheet on Mars,” said Mark Gillenick, a research associate at the UBC Earth and Ocean Sciences division in the statement.

The researchers found that only a few natural channels formed on the surface of Mars, which is a significant difference from previous research.

By examining the climatic models of ancient Mars, researchers also found that the Red Planet was probably much cooler than what was thought at the time when these valleys formed.

Interestingly, the thick ice layers also improve the chances of preserving the remains of ancient life on Mars if they exist, because the ice was blocking solar radiation, especially during the time when Mars did not have a magnetic field.

While Grau Galofre’s research was focused on Mars, the analytical tools she developed for this work can be applied to uncover more about the early history of our own planet. Jellinek says he intends to use these new algorithms to analyze and explore erosion features left over from very early Earth history.

“Currently we can reconstruct rigorously the history of global glaciation on Earth going back about a million to five million years,” says Jellinek. “Anna’s work will enable us to explore the advance and retreat of ice sheets back to at least 35 million years ago—to the beginnings of Antarctica, or earlier—back in time well before the age of our oldest ice cores. These are very elegant analytical tools.”