Scientists are reasonable convinced that the lines on Mar’s slopes were caused by water flowing to the surface and then being boiled off rapidly leaving something akin to what happens when you drop an ice cube on the beach.
Scientists use lab to explain Mars “recurring slope lineae”
In a recent find published in the journal Nature Geoscience, lead author Marion Masse, a geologist at the University of Nantes in France, along with her colleagues, used a laboratory to simulated the atmospheric pressure and temperature of of the Red Planet. They then placed blocks of ice inside the chambers on top of the slopes they created and found that water evaporated so quickly that it created ridges that look nearly identical to those on Mars.
With lower pressures the results were even more pronounced.
“Sometimes when we lower the pressure, it’s like popcorn on the surface,” she said when speaking of the flying sand that she and her team witnessed.
While scientists are nearly certain that Mars once had flowing water, this latest study, while convincing, certainly does not qualify as proof. The streaks the team observed were considerably more pronounced when the team shifted away from freshwater and used blocks of ice containing salt. Briny water, or water with hydrated salts, did not evaporate nearly as quickly and flowed in a manner that could create the streaks that have been observed on Mars.
This is backed up by the fact that just last year, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter found signs of hydrated salts in the Martian streaks.
“It suggests that it would be possible for there to be life today on Mars,” said John Grunsfeld who was the associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate when the find was made last year.
Mars is not Earth
Scientists, have for years, based hypothesis of what once occurred on Mars by comparing Martian conditions to that on Earth, which Masse suggests is not optimum as there are conditions on the Red Planet that have no parallel here on Earth.
“With our experiments we see that it’s not really possible to compare water flow on Earth and on Mars … [the] mechanism is completely different,” Masse said.
Alfred McEwen, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona and leader for the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and study co-author added, “This helps us to think differently about how water would behave on Mars,” referring to the conditions that allowed to the briny water to move the soil.
“Paradoxically, instead of requiring the stability of substantial water or brines, it is the instability of water on Mars that may explain the morphological activity needed to form the observed features,” Wouter Marra of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, who wrote an accompany commentary to the study.
The study cements what scientists have said for some time, there is no life on Mars, certainly not on the Martian surface as the violent evaporation of water would never be favorable to even life at a microbial level. Water that doesn’t have this violent evaporation is inherently salty and likely to salty to support microbes.
So, on the off chance that there is any life the Red Planet it would surely exist beneath the surface, though also quite unlikely.
“It is not easy to conduct fieldwork on Mars, so physical experiments are an important tool to explore how processes operate under Martian surface conditions and the geomorphic impact of these processes,” Marra wrote in the commentary that accompanied the study explaining the need for lab simulations. “Such experimental insights are essential to interpret what we see in satellite imagery and to provide information for numerical models attempting to reconstruct climate conditions on Mars.”