Categories: Mars

Mars Was Recently Blanketed By Glaciers

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

Fraser Cain

Fraser Cain is the publisher of Universe Today. He's also the co-host of Astronomy Cast with Dr. Pamela Gay. Here's a link to my Mastodon account.

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