Mars Was Recently Blanketed By Glaciers

Article written: 23 Apr , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

Mars is a dead world, unchanging for billions of years. Right? Maybe not. Researchers from Brown University have found evidence for thick, recurring glaciers on the surface of Mars. This means that the climate on Mars might be much more dynamic than previously believed. Perhaps the climate could change again. And liquid water underneath these glaciers might have given life a refuge over the eons.

Around 3.5 billion years ago, Mars was a completely different world, with liquid water right there on its surface. And then something happened that made it cold, dry, and quiet – too quiet. Apart from the occasional meteorite impact, planetary geologists thought that very little has happened on Mars since then.

In an article published in the journal Geology, scientists from Brown University released images showing how dynamic Mars might be. They found evidence that thick ice packs, at least 1 km (0.6 miles) thick and maybe 2.5 km (1.6 miles) thick coated Mars’ mid-latitude regions.

These ice sheets weren’t there last year, but they were there 100 million years ago, and maybe localized glaciers were flowing as recently as 10 million years ago. That’s yesterday, geologically speaking.

With activity this recent on Mars, that could mean that its climate might change often, and it could happen again. Maybe Mars wasn’t so dead for the last 3.5 billion years.

The images captured by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter showed a box canyon in a low-lying plain. The canyon clearly has moraines – deposits of rock that mark the end of the glacier, or the path of its retreat.

This discovery increases the possibility of life on the surface of Mars. At the bottom of the glaciers, crushed under kilometres of ice, liquid water would have formed into vast reservoirs. These could have served as sanctuaries for life.

Original Source: Brown University News Release

,



21 Responses

  1. David Madison, Sr. says

    Liquid water could not have pooled at the base of a melting glacier on Mars. Regardless of the presence of ice, it would not melt into water. It would sublimate into gas. It has been something like 3,000 million years, not 100, since Mars had enough atmospheric pressure to allow liquid water on the surface.

  2. LLDIAZ says

    Finding life on Mars is not the point its finding life on two planets in one system, that doubles the chances that life is abundant in the outer reaches of our universe.duh!

  3. Peter Brouwer says

    Why does every article on Mars involve the question of life? I suspect that human beings are morally afraid of being alone in the cosmos. We’ve found no plants, no animal, no definite bacterial evidence. Maybe we are the crowning glory of the universe. Maybe we are an abberant genetic mutation that will fail sometime soon. Whatever the answer it seems that the universe does not care, Just like our ecological world does not care – survival of the fitest. If we stuff up this little part of the universe, there are plenty of species ready to “have a go”. Let’s focus on the life we know – and lose the fear of being alone.

  4. Peter Brouwer says

    Sorry I meant “mortaly”

  5. could mars have lost its atmosphere to a “hot jupiter”?

  6. Chuck Pearce says

    Is it the fear of being alone, or the excitement that comes with that big question “Does life, in any form, exist outside of our planet”? I believe it is the excitement that an answer to that question would bring, cascading into so many other scientific studies. Mars is one of the few reachable, observable planets that within our lifetimes we could find that very answer.

  7. Watchful Stone Guardian says

    David Madison, Sr: Do you not think there would be sufficient pressure from the ice above to allow liquid to form and persist? This liquid lubricating layer is not necessarily caused by surface run-off but the pressure of the ice against the rock beneath. Now the melting of the Greenland glaciers is another story with the surface run-off water acting as supplementary lubrication and accelerating the movement of the glaciers.

    On a second note does anyone know the air pressure required for snow to form and persist? I can’t picture glaciers forming due to condensation/frost.

  8. Dave Finton says

    I think Arthur C. Clarke summed it up best, so I’ll paraphrase him here: The are two possibilities; either we are alone in the Universe, or we are not. Both scenarios are nearly unimaginable.

  9. Qev says

    @David Madison, Sr.

    From what I can figure, at Mars’ ambient pressure, liquid water can exist up to around 4C.

  10. alphonso richardson says

    I’m in agreement with Finton ( & obviously the late A.C Clarke) on the question of life, Mars & the Universe.

  11. Butthole says

    The thing is, it’s literally impossible for us to be alone in this universe. The thing you don’t seem to understand is that there are hundreds of billions of stars, and hundreds of thousands solar systems outside this one. We humans haven’t even been OUTSIDE of our solar system yet, and don’t even say we have with probes or satellites because the one we sent to go outside the solar system won’t even be there until 2014 or later. If we’re the best the unvierse can conjure up, then I feel sorry for it.

  12. Saavykas says

    And we will never hear about this finding again.

  13. LLDIAZ says

    The correct question to ask is,
    ” Is or was there ever intelligent life beyond our planet”. and the answer maybe yes just not now. Or what if there was another intelligent civilization here on earth more advanced then we are could they have existed maybe a billion years ago and we just have’nt found any thing of there’s. crazy huh?

  14. Jason Leary says

    Mr.Madison St. consider that the ice glaciers may have fostered air pockets possibly that owuld have had a different air pressure than the outside environs that may have alowed liquid water to poo l .

  15. Jason Leary says

    Sr. NOT St. Sorry abvout the typo .

  16. Jason Leary says

    To believe that we are alone in the universe is unspeakably bizarre .

    And humanity the “crown of creation” …maybe individual people are but humanity as a whole ????? Mary Hart of Entertainement Tonight and the vapid herds of yuppies, who mentally lick up the fiendishly vapid celebrity gossip she dishes up night after night are hardly the crown of humanity !!!!

  17. Jason Leary says

    AN ADDENTA :

    Meant to post maybe *some* individual people (are the crown of creation) .

  18. Sheridan says

    In response to “The thing is, it’s literally impossible for us to be alone in this universe.”

    A statistical likelihood (I’d like to see your numbers in any case, reminding you the Drake equation isn’t exactly the most scientific thing there is) is not the same as absolute certainty. It’s completely fallacious to say it’s impossible for no other life to exist. I think it’s likely that there is other life, but it’s just naive to call it a certainty.

  19. I agree with Brouer: who cares? certainly we know enough about organic chemistry that life elsewhere in the universe should be no big hoo-haa at this point. Are we alone? Hell no, there are six billion of us here and we do nothing but kill and abuse one another most of the time and perpetuate economic systems dating back to ancient Babylon. With expanding knowledge in quantum physics and higher dimensional theory, the big question in my mind isn’t wether or not there are more frogs, bugs and fish, but sentiences altogether in another plane of existense…as in “Our father, who art in heaven…” Maybe religion holds more truth than we care to admit.

  20. Dante D'Anthony says

    You didn’t post my comment? How narrowminded! This is so typical-anyone speaking outside the box in whatever subject matter is often dismissed. Wether it be feminism, religion, science, sciencefiction, yada yada-step outside the mainstream and one is cast out of the disscussion. Considering there ARE higher dimensions, and quantum physics AND we are close to creating an AI that will surpass human intelligence in our lifetime you would have had a little more latitude with the post. Read “the Physics of immortality”. I read your website all the time-I’m very dissapointed in the level of narrowmindedness you just showed by refusing my post. LOL.

  21. Aaron says

    Has anybody considered the black fungus found inside Chernobyl that apparently uses melanin (skin pigment) instead of chlorophyll (excuse my typos) to grow? It uses gamma radiation to stimulate growth instead of regular sunlight spectrum. Look it up. It implies that we my use our own melanin in a similar fashion. It also implies that interstellar life may be possible. Mushroom spores have been proven to survive in the vaccuum of space. Maybe life drifted here from elsewhere. After all, we share over 90% of our DNA with all species of plant and animal. Almost anything could have started us. If the earth ever exploded (fat chance) mushroom spores could certainly travel through interstellar space until smacking into an appropriate growth spot. Think about it.

Leave a Reply