Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Is there life on Mars?

11.06.2012
A new study reveals that parts of Mars may have been modified by liquid water in recent geologic times, which might indicate more favourable conditions for life on the planet.
Carried out by researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, in conjunction with German planetary researchers at Wilhelm’s University in Muenster and the Germany Aerospace Center (DLR) in Berlin, the study have now been published in the prestigious journal ICARUS, the International Journal for Solar System Studies.

The surface of Mars displays a diverse landscape, and a new study shows that large areas of the northern hemisphere have undergone a number of freeze-thaw cycles.

“This process is common in our own Arctic permafrost environments and causes the formation of lobate features on slopes,” says Andreas Johnsson at the University of Gothenburg’s Department of Earth Sciences. “As the Martian landscapes we’re studying feature ground-ice, our interpretation is that liquid water has been available in the ground during thaw periods.”

Gullies formed by water
When the ice melted, the near-surface sediment on the slopes became saturated with the melt water and then slowly began to move downwards on top of the still frozen permafrost table due to gravity.

“You can see these structures in close proximity to what are known as gullies,” says Andreas Johnsson.
The researchers have long suspected that the gullies, which are geologically young landforms, were formed by liquid water.

“Our question was: if liquid water can occur in local niches, predominantly in impact craters, where most of the gullies are to be found, then shouldn’t we see more signs of thawing and the effects of melt water, along the lines of those in our own Arctic environments?”
In the study, which focuses on the northern hemisphere of Mars, the researchers could see lobate features in close proximity to the gullies. Morphologically similar landforms are also to be found in Arctic areas on Earth, and are known as solifluction lobes.

Comparisons with Earth
In the study, the researchers compared Martian landforms with known solifluction landforms in Svalbard.

“Unlike local ice-melting, as suggested by the ravines, the solifluction lobes indicate that there has probably been more widespread thawing of the Martian landscape,” says Andreas Johnsson. “Consequently there must have been liquid water in large areas, which is interesting for our understanding of past climates.”

The results show either that the climate models for Mars must be fine-tuned to include the climatic conditions required by these features, or that there is another factor at play.
Since the Mars Phoenix Lander mission it has been confirmed that the ground contains salts that can affect the freezing point of water on Mars so that it can be liquid even at sub-zero temperatures and low atmospheric pressure.

“We don’t yet know which of these scenarios is more likely − it could be a combination of the two.”
Searching for life on Mars
Transient liquid water is also of considerable interest when looking for favourable environments for life on Mars. Research has shown that organisms can survive for long periods without water in cold environments on Earth, but that there must be access to water at times.
“On Mars, these landforms may suggest that the ice melts during favourable “warm” periods and the ground is temporarily saturated with water before freezing again when a new cold period comes along. This process is probably seasonal and linked to periods when Mars’ polar axis was more tilted. Given the varying climate on Mars, it is possible that these conditions are recurring. It has to be emphasized, however, that process-landform interpretation can be problematic due to convergence, which means that different sets of processes may result in similar-looking landforms. Nevertheless, based on comparative morphology, morphometry relationships and the proximity to gullies make these landforms consistent with solifluction”.

The study has been published in the prestigious journal ICARUS, the International Journal for Solar System Studies.

Bibliographic data
Titel: Periglacial mass-wasting landforms on Mars suggestive of transient liquid water in the recent past: Insights from solifluction lobes on Svalbard
Authors: Johnssona,Reiss,Hauber,Zanetti,Hiesinger,Johanssona,Olvmo
Journal: Icarus, Volume 218, Issue 1

For more information, please contact: Andreas Johnsson, doctoral student in physical geography, Department of Geosciences, University of Gothenburg
Telephone: +46 (0)31 786 2943
Mobile: +46 (0)725 205 088
E-mail: andreasj@gvc.gu.se

Helena Aaberg | idw
Further information:
http://www.gu.se
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0019103511005021

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Clear as mud: Desiccation cracks help reveal the shape of water on Mars
20.04.2018 | Geological Society of America

nachricht Hurricane Harvey: Dutch-Texan research shows most fatalities occurred outside flood zones
19.04.2018 | European Geosciences Union

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Magnetic nano-imaging on a table top

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Start of work for the world's largest electric truck

20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research

Atoms may hum a tune from grand cosmic symphony

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>