The surface of Mars is filled with unique and fascinating features, such as “dragon scales” and striking structures such as giant footprint-shaped craters. Scientists are still wondering how some of these absurd traces appear, some of which are thought to have been caused by volcanic eruptions that sent lava to the surface of Mars and left a flowing structural scar on the surface. But a new study suggests that some of these flows may not be caused by classic volcanic activity. Instead, they are more likely to be formed by “sedimentary volcanoes” and mud volcanoes, which sounds exciting, but not as dramatic and explosive as their fellow flamboyant rock.
The study, published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience, used the Mars Chamber, a purpose-built vacuum chamber that recreates Martian conditions, similar to deep-sea submersibles. The vacuum chamber is cooled to around -30 degrees Celsius (-20 degrees Fahrenheit) and the pressure is reduced to replicate the thin atmosphere on Mars. Since the Mars Chamber does not allow consideration of Mars’ gravity, it may affect the results, so it is not possible to replicate the exact conditions of Mars.
After locking the condition, the mud was poured, and the researchers analyzed how the mud moved along the slope placed inside the cabin. The mud soon froze and began to pile up like a soft ice cream, forming a bumpy pile of mud and a crack. Mud volcanoes on the surface of Mars may allow similar phenomena to occur. The mud volcano is not so much a huge, towering structure as a pool on the ground, where mud is forced down from miles.
The team also looked at how mud flows under Earth-like conditions, and compared it, and found that their experimental mud flow did not freeze on the land surface, but flowed down the hillside, like melting ice cream. The team concluded that lava and mud flows on Mars could form similar structures on the surface of Mars. They came up with the idea that some similar lava flows might be made up of past mud and suggested that some similar lava flows should be re-evaluated.
New evidence suggests that these structures on the surface of Mars may be formed by cooled lava or rapidly solidified mud, which coincides with previously discovered “mud volcanoes”, which have been observed by space agencies such as NASA and ESA, suggestfluids beneath the surface. Will the mud have anything to do with the potential of life on the Red Planet? Well, in 2017, NASA’s Curiosity rover discovered and imaged a mud crack in the Gale Roundabout, suggesting that the planet had a watery past.
If the observed flow is based on mud, it may point to the possibility that the organic molecules needed for life are hidden beneath the surface of Mars. NASA will launch a new rover, The Perseverance, in July to look for signs of life on Mars.