Report: Ice, not floods, could have shaped channels on Mars
An ice stream in the Antarctica image (top) resembles an outflow channel on Mars (bottom). The large arrows in both pictures point to where the channels split around topographical rises. This and other similarities suggest the red planet once possessed an ocean, according to a planetary geologist
(CNN) -- Streams of ice rather than heavy flooding could have shaped
long channels that riddle the surface of Mars, according to a new
Certain channels on the red planet bear a striking resemblance to
outflow arteries in the Antarctic, noted lead scientist Baerbel
Lucchitta. The findings give credence to the theory that ancient Mars
was a wet planet, she said.
Lucchitta compared the martian channels to frozen ice flows in streams
within Antarctica's ice sheets. The features in both locations extend
hundreds of kilometers or miles.
Some martian channels exhibit similar characteristics to those of
Antarctic channels carved by ice streams, the U.S. Geological Survey
scientist noted. The configuration of some streams is identical, she
wrote in the February 1 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, a
publication of the American Geophysical Union.
Looking at Ares Valles, a long valley on Mars, Lucchitta speculated
that some material resembling flowing ice entered a body of water
covered by ice.
"The observations strongly support the notion that an ocean once
existed in the northern plains of Mars," she said in a statement.
As part of the study, funded by NASA's Planetary Geology and
Geophysical Program, Lucchitta studied Antarctic channels recently
mapped with improved sonar imaging.
The Flagstaff, Arizona-based scientist compared ice streams that flow
from West Antarctica into the Ross and Ronne Ice Shelves with red
planet channels like Kasei Valles that terminate in the northern
plains, where there might have been an ocean billions of years ago.
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U.S. Geological Survey
American Geophysical Union
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