A new study could reconstruct the past climate of Mars. Here is what we know so far

22/05/2022
Credit image: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center - The Look of a Young Mars, artist concept
Credit image: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center - The Look of a Young Mars, artist concept

Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 22 May 2022, at 12:23 am Los Angeles time

A new study by scientists led by Dr. Andrew Gunn, from the Monash University School of Earth, Atmosphere, and Environment, shows a new way to reconstruct the past climate of Mars.

The study provides important evidence that the climate was much more erosive, with periods of liquid water flowing in the form of rivers.

However, we still have a lot to study until we find out what exactly happened, to transform a possible hospitable planet in the past, into a planet so unwelcome now.

"If we want to know if there was life on Mars, we need to understand the sedimentary rock record," said Dr. Andrew Gunn.

"Our study determines the timing and rates of sediment erosion and accumulation over Mars' geologic history in a completely novel way, and for the first time quantifies a measure of the erodibility of each of the types of rocks we see on Mars' surface,"

"It is significant because we show that the abundance of sands blown by wind into craters on Mars' surface can be linked to the climate history of the planet, unlocking a new way to understand when in geologic time Mars may have been habitable."

The study used a lot of data, from satellites, geological maps of the planet Mars, and data collected by missions on Mars, trying to find the moment of erosion on the planet.

The geology of Mars has many similarities to that of Earth, but a strange thing for scientists is the sediments on the Martian surface.

Both on Mars and Earth, the rocks are slowly eroded into sediments, which are buried, and new rocks come to the surface.

But if on Earth, its surface is recycled by tectonics, so that the sediments disappear, on Mars sediments can remain for many years, including millions of years, to this day.

This is probably helpful for geologists, as they can learn more about the geology of the past Mars by looking at the sediments on the surface of the planet.

"Seeing high rates of accumulation in a certain period of Mars' history indicates that it was much more likely there was active rivers eroding material then," continued Dr. Gunn.

"Plenty of evidence for surface water in Mars' past has been published before-meaning there was liquid water on the surface and an atmosphere to sustain it (i.e., conditions more conducive to life)-but the jury is still out on when exactly, and for how long, this occurred," he also said.

Both geologists and astronomers are researching to find out what Mars was like in the past. Knowing its past, we can learn a lot about how it will evolve, hoping that at some point mankind will reach a planet other than Earth, namely Mars.

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