Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Unique Martian formation reproduced, reveals brief bursts of water

Researchers from the United States and the Netherlands report that several formations on Mars indicate incidents of rapid release of water from the planet’s interior.

Mars has many basins that contain formations that look like fans. A few of these fans, only about 10, have steps down into the basin. Since scientists first reported this feature three years ago, there has been no clear consensus on how they formed.

So, following an example of a project they had created for high school students, geosciences faculty members at Utrecht University in the Netherlands reproduced the process. “There are no fans with steps on earth, so we had to build one,” said Erin R. Kraal, now a geosciences research scientist at Virginia Tech.

In the article, “Martian stepped-delta formation by rapid water release,” published in the Feb. 21, 2008, issue of Nature, Kraal and her Utrect colleagues, Maurits van Dijk, George Postma, and Maarten G. Kleinhans, describe how they made a stepped fan – and what it says about at least one source of water on Mars.

In a room-sized sediment flume (5 by 12 meters or 16 by 40 feet), the researchers dug a crater in sand, then simulated water flow into the crater. “As the fan and the water level intersected, the steps appeared,” Kraal said. “As the water flows in through a channel, it erodes the sediment. The water fans out and deposits the transported sediment as deltas, building steps down into the basin.”

Once they established what had to happen to make a stepped fan in the lab, the scientists created sediment transport models and studied the morphology of the fans on Mars using satellite images and topographical date from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA). Based on fans of 20 kilometers in basins of 100 kilometers, they calculated the conditions for the creation of a stepped fan.

The researchers report that formation of stepped fans would only take 10s of years – not the hundreds to millions of years estimated for other Mars hydrologic events. But it would require a lot of water. And it would be a one-time event – the basin would not refill.

“Water volumes would be between that of the Mississippi River over the course of 10 years or the Rhine River flowing for 100 years into a 62-mile wide basin,” Kraal said.

But, looking at an image from Mars, the water channel looks nothing like the Mississippi River – being hundreds of times smaller than such a river. “We suggest the water was released internally, such as hydrothermal water suddenly pushed to the surface,” Kraal said.

She said that there are features on Mars that look like they could come from weather, but stepped fans do not.

And that high school project? The Utrecht research team cooperated with the European Geosciences Union to provide information about Mars for an EGU outreach project. Then when the Journal for Young Scientists wanted to create a movie about how fans form, the researchers arranged for the students to be filmed as they built a crater at the Eurotank lab at Utrecht and ran water into it. “At the end of the day, we discovered we had steps,” said Kraal. “The next week we started the official controlled experiments. We tested other ways to make stepped fans but this was the best way.”

Kraal has been at Virginia Tech since August 2007. She is continuing to study fans in general, and in Earth’s extremely arid areas in particular, which are an analog for the conditions on Mars.

Fans are only one aspect of her study of surface process on earth and across all planets. “I find it interesting that we can look at the same processes across planets. For instance, there appears there are fans on Titan, where the fundamental variables – gravity, the type of rock, the atmosphere – are so different,” said Kraal. “It is interesting to change the fundamental variables and look at such processes as landslides or how big scarps retreat. On Earth, vegetation has a tremendous impact on such processes. On Mars, we have purer conditions, without the influence of vegetation, allowing us to look at surfaces without this variable.”

Susan Trulove | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Wandering greenhouse gas
16.03.2018 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

nachricht Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System
14.03.2018 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>