Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Martian polygons and deep-sea polygons on Earth: More evidence for ancient Martian oceans?

30.07.2012
The August 2012 GSA Today science article is now online

Debate over the origin of large-scale polygons (hundreds of meters to kilometers in diameter) on Mars remains active even after several decades of detailed observations. Similarity in geometric patterns on Mars and Earth has long captured the imagination.

In this new article from GSA Today, geologists at The University of Texas at Austin examine these large-scale polygons and compare them to similar features on Earth's seafloor, which they believe may have formed via similar processes.

Understanding these processes may in turn fuel support for the idea of ancient oceans on Mars.

Through examination of THEMIS, MOLA, Viking, and Mariner data and images, planetary scientists have found that areas on the northern plains of Mars are divided into large polygon-shaped portions and that sets of these polygons span extensive areas of the Martian surface. Smaller polygon-shaped bodies are found elsewhere on Mars, but these are best explained by thermal contraction processes similar to those in terrestrial permafrost environments and not likely to form larger polygons.

In the August 2012 issue of GSA Today, Lorena Moscardelli and her colleagues from The University of Texas at Austin present a detailed comparison of the geometric features of these large Martian polygons and similar features found in deep-sea sediments here on Earth. Moscardelli and colleagues note striking similarities.

On Earth, polygon-shaped areas, with the edges formed by faults, are common in fine-grained deep-sea sediments. Some of the best examples of these polygon-fault areas are found in the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea. These are imaged using detailed, 3-D seismic surveys conducted to search for offshore oil and gas deposits. Images reproduced in this paper show that these deep-water polygons are also 1,000 meters or greater in diameter.

While the details of deep-sea polygon formation on Earth are complex, Moscardelli and her colleagues conclude that the majority of these polygons form in a common environment: sediments made up of fine-grained clays in ocean basins that are deeper than 500 meters, and when these sediments are only shallowly buried by younger sediments. A key observation -- also made recently by Michelle Cooke at the University of Massachusetts -- is that the physical mechanism of polygon formation requires a thick, wet, and mechanically weak layer of sediment.

Moscardelli and colleagues also conclude that the slope angle of the sea floor plays an important role in both the formation and preservation of these polygons. Where the seafloor slope is very gentle (slopes less than half a degree), the polygons have very regular shapes and sizes. In many locations where polygons have formed on top of buried topographic features on the seafloor, the shapes of the polygons were altered, and in some cases were broken up and disrupted where the slopes were steepest. Both observations are consistent with deformation of the soft marine sediments as they creep or flow downslope in these areas.

In the northern plains of Mars, where the surface is basically flat, the polygons have very regular shapes and sizes -- remarkably similar to the deep-sea polygons found on Earth. In places where the topography on Mars is more varied, and where there may be evidence for other sediment-transport features on the surface, areas of deformed and disrupted polygons can be found -- again similar to the disrupted polygons here on Earth.

On the basis of these striking similarities, the University of Texas at Austin team concludes that these features most likely share a common origin and were formed by similar mechanisms in a similar environment. The team argues that the Martian polygons were formed within a thick, wet, and weak layer of fine-grained sediments that were deposited in a deep-water setting, similar to the Earth polygons. Thus, these interesting geometric features may provide additional evidence for the existence of an ocean in the northern portion of Mars approximately three billion years ago.

GSA Today articles are open access online; for a print copy, please contact Kea Giles at the e-mail address. Please discuss articles of interest with the authors before publishing stories on their work, and please make reference to GSA Today in articles published.

Deep-water polygonal fault systems as terrestrial analogs for large-scale Martian polygonal terrains Lorena Moscardelli, Tim Dooley, Dallas Dunlap, Martin Jackson, and Lesli Wood, Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geosciences, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78713-8924, USA. Pages 1-9; doi: 10.1130/GSATG147A.1, www.geosociety.org/gsatoday/archive/22/8/.

GSA Today is The Geological Society of America's science and news magazine for members and other earth scientists. Refereed lead science articles present exciting new research or synthesize important issues in a format understandable to all in the earth science community. GSA Today often features a refereed "Groundwork" articles -- tightly focused papers on issues of import to earth science policy, planning, funding, or education. All GSA Today articles are open access at www.geosociety.org/pubs/

Kea Giles | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.geosociety.org

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht The struggle for life in the Dead Sea sediments: Necrophagy as a survival mechanism
26.03.2019 | Geological Society of America

nachricht Mangroves and their significance for climate protection
26.03.2019 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New gene potentially involved in metastasis identified

Gene named after Roman goddess Minerva as immune cells get stuck in the fruit fly’s head

Cancers that display a specific combination of sugars, called T-antigen, are more likely to spread through the body and kill a patient. However, what regulates...

Im Focus: The taming of the light screw

DESY and MPSD scientists create high-order harmonics from solids with controlled polarization states, taking advantage of both crystal symmetry and attosecond electronic dynamics. The newly demonstrated technique might find intriguing applications in petahertz electronics and for spectroscopic studies of novel quantum materials.

The nonlinear process of high-order harmonic generation (HHG) in gases is one of the cornerstones of attosecond science (an attosecond is a billionth of a...

Im Focus: Magnetic micro-boats

Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.

The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Listening to the quantum vacuum

26.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

The struggle for life in the Dead Sea sediments: Necrophagy as a survival mechanism

26.03.2019 | Earth Sciences

Mangroves and their significance for climate protection

26.03.2019 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>