Lava-like flows on Mars turned out to be mud

Lava-like streams on Mars turned out to be dirt. This conclusion was made by scientists from the University of Lancaster, a study of which was published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Observations of the surface of Mars allowed scientists to discover thousands of channels that were formed by fluid flows in the early era of the planet. These channels are very long – their length is up to several tens of kilometers, and the width can reach several kilometers.

The researchers had two hypotheses of their origin – canals could have formed as a result of a very large flood or due to volcanic eruptions.

In a new work, scientists decided to find out the origin of the channels. They compiled a model of the propagation of masses of fluid over the Martian surface at very low pressure and temperatures well below zero, around minus 20°C.

“We conducted experiments in a vacuum chamber to simulate the release of dirt on Mars. We often see many similar streams on images of spacecraft. However, so far no rover has studied their composition, and scientists have questions about the origin of the channels – it is still unknown whether they are formed by lava or mud eruptions”.

Lionel Wilson, lead author of the research

Modeling showed that the flows are formed by the eruption of mud volcanoes, and the mud on the surface of the planet behaves differently than on Earth. Due to the low temperature, the water in it is not stable and either freezes quickly or evaporates. As a result, the flow loses volume, forming channels.