Modern Mars is a combination of mountains and deserts, which are dotted with traces of ancient climatic cataclysms. Surprisingly, in this cold and dry world, once the water boiled and boiled as it happened on Earth only a few times in its history. Researchers at Jackson State University and the University of Hawaii have used data from Curiosity to calculate the magnitude of ancient mega-floods on Mars.
The Curiosity rover has been operating in what is known as Gale Crater for eight years. He slowly climbs Mount Sharpe, the high ground in the center of the crater. As the craft climbed, scientists determined that the impact crater was once the bowl of an ancient lake. It was very active, constantly filling and emptying, as indicated by the so-called “gravel ridges”. On Earth, such formations in the rock create very fast and strong streams of water.
The height of the found ridges reaches 10 m, and having measured the intervals between them, scientists calculated that for their formation, a stream of 24 m or more is needed. The speed of such a flood is at least 10 m / s – this is a colossal destructive force. Gale Crater has survived many disaster strikes, but that mega-flood was the worst in its history.
Experts have hypothesized that about 4 billion years ago, an asteroid hit the pole of Mars, which threw into the atmosphere a huge amount of water vapor, methane and other gases. The climate has changed dramatically, a powerful greenhouse effect has started, the strongest downpours began on the planet, which gave rise to floods of an extraordinary scale. The water rushed into the lowlands, which turned into lakes and even seas, while the overall temperature increased – why not conditions for the birth of life? The next rover will try to find the answer to this question. Perseverance.