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

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Chronic stress induces fatal organ dysfunctions via a new neural circuit

21.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

Scientists from the MSU studied new liquid-crystalline photochrom

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>