Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Martian Snow Source of Tropical Glaciers, Research Team Reports

20.01.2006


Snow is the source of glacial deposits found at the base of the majestic volcanoes and mountains dotting the mid-latitude and tropical regions of Mars. Based on an innovative blend of geological observations and climate modeling created by a team of American and French scientists, the finding appears in Science.



Discovery of the source of the tropical glaciers ends a 30-year Martian mystery. In 1976, cameras aboard NASA’s Viking Mission to Mars captured unprecedented views of the canyons and craters of the Red Planet – including polar ice caps. Recent spacecraft data reveal curious rock-strewn deposits found at the foot of volcanoes and mountains close to the equator.

In the last two years, Brown University planetary geologist James Head and other Mars experts have offered up mounting evidence that these ice-rich landforms – which appear to ooze out of valleys in the Eastern Hellas region or puddle on the western flanks of the three giant volcanoes known as the Tharsis Montes – are the remnants of geologically recent glaciers.


But how could ice form so far from the planet’s poles? Long-ago landslides? Upwelling from an underground reservoir?

“What we found,” Head said, “was that the glaciers were formed from snow brought from the polar regions.”

A few million years ago, Head and the team explain, the axis of Mars was tilted in such a way that the poles were pointing dramatically closer to the sun. Sun rays hit the polar ice caps nearly head on, releasing massive amounts of water vapor into the atmosphere. Monsoon-like winds carried the water vapor south, up and over the soaring slopes of the Tharsis Montes volcanoes and Olympus Mons, the solar system’s largest volcano. The vapor cooled, condensed and fell in the form of snow. Over time, the snow turned to ice, the ice formed glaciers, and the glaciers created the deposits seen today.

The Martian precipitation cycle described in Science is similar to the one on Earth that routinely blankets mountainous regions such as the Rockies in snow. Another Earthly analog: the tropical mountain glaciers described in the article can be found in places such as Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa or the Andean peaks in South America.

The team arrived at their finding using a climate model that simulated the present-day Mars water cycle but assumed a 45-degree axial tilt found on the planet millions of years ago. The model created a near-perfect match of predicted ice accumulation and direct observational evidence from images taken by the Mars Express, Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey orbiters.

“The findings are important because they tell us that Mars has experienced big climate changes in the past, the kinds of climate change that led to the Great Ice Age here on Earth,” said Head, the Louis and Elizabeth Scherck Distinguished Professor at Brown. “The findings are also interesting because this precipitation pattern may have left pockets of ice scattered across Mars. This is good information for NASA as officials plan future space missions, particularly with astronauts.”

The team also includes scientists from the Institut Pierre Simon Laplace and the Institut de Mecanique in Paris as well as the NASA Ames Research Center. The Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, the European Space Agency and NASA funded the work.

Wendy Lawton | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.brown.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Basque researchers turn light upside down
23.02.2018 | Elhuyar Fundazioa

nachricht Attoseconds break into atomic interior
23.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>