Scientists from Open University (UK) have recorded evidence of recent glacial meltwater on the Red Planet. Although there is a perception that the climate has recently been too cold to allow the process to melt.
The main attention was paid to the Martian “esker” - a ridge precipitated by melt water flowing under the glacier about 110 million years ago. To understand the importance of discovery, you must answer a few questions.
What are Martian glaciers?
These formations resemble terrestrial, that is, the Martian poles are covered with dense ice caps, and the equator has no traces of surface ice. Between the equatorial and pole lines are located thousands of glaciers with water ice. They were at the center of the study and can reach a thickness of several meters.
What was thought before?
Earlier it was believed that the glaciers in the middle Martian latitudes are too cold to activate the melting process. This assumption is based on an average temperature of -55 ° C. But analysis shows that subsurface volcanic activity and heat from moving ice could lead to melting in the past.
What is an “esker”?
It is melt water flowing through a glacier. It forms a tunnel through the ice and is filled with sediments like rocks, gravel, and sand. As a result, a precipitate is created - esker.
Does water flow today?
So far no direct observations have confirmed the presence of liquid water on Mars. But the study makes it possible to take a fresh look at the past of the Red Planet and study in more detail the causes of the melting of glaciers.
What does an esker say?
To this day, only two eskers have been found. Both appeared 110-150 million years ago and are located in deep rift valleys. This explains why concrete glaciers were able to create melt water in cool climates.
Why is this important?
If humanity gets to Mars, then the middle latitudes will become an important source of ice mining, which can be processed into water.
What about life?
Mars is still dangerous, so there is no exact evidence of the presence or absence of life in a planetary history. There is little chance that glaciers support life or have done it before, but still there is a chance to find traces of microbes, because terrestrial glaciers function as protective layers for life forms.