Mars Was Home to Raging Rivers, and Lakes That Carved Out Vast Canyons

Mega-floods on Mars carved vast Canyons on the red planet's surface.

A new study has found that the red planet was home to a number of rivers and lakes forme din craters around the planet which burst to carve out massive canyon formation in a matter of weeks.

Concept art of Mars' Jezero Crater. Image credit: Kevin Gill
Concept art of Mars’ Jezero Crater. Image credit: Kevin Gill

On Earth, things are very different.

On the surface of our planet, canyons take millions of years fo for from the surface.

On the red planet, however, things are very different.

Scientists have recently found that catastrophic floods on Mars were unleashed as lakes and rivers became so overfilled that they burst their banks, resulting in the formation of a number of canyons very rapidly.

And sicnetists say evidence of these canyons can bee seen today, billions of years after these lakes and rivers disappeared.

Now, most of Mars’ water is thigly locked away in the rd planet’s frozen icecaps.

This is according to scientists from the University of Texas at Austin who have found evidence of catastrophic geological processes which they believe played a crucial role in forming the landscape of Mars we see today.

Dr. Tim Goudge, at the UT Jackson School of Geosciences, and lead author of the study explained: “These breached lakes are fairly common and some of them are quite large, some as large as the Caspian Sea. So we think this style of catastrophic overflow flooding and rapid incision of outlet canyons was probably quite important on early Mars’ surface.”

According to experts, satellite images of the Martian surface has revealed rock formation that undeobtedly show evidnece of hundreds of craters across the surface which were once, in th edistant past, filled with large amounts of Martian water.

More than 200 of these ‘paleolakes’ have outlet canyons tens to hundreds of kilometers long and several kilometers wide, incredibly carved by Martian water flowing from ancient lake and rivers.

But the enigma remained whether these canyons were gradually carved, like here on Earth, or whether they were the result of rapid carving, caused by single, massive floods.

While massive floods flowing from Martian craters might sound like a scene in a science fiction novel, a similar process occurs on Earth when lakes dammed by glaciers break through their icy barriers. The researchers found that the similarity is more than superficial. As long as gravity is accounted for, floods create outlets with similar shapes whether on Earth or Mars.

“This tells us that things that are different between the planets are not as important as the basic physics of the overflow process and the size of the basin,” Goudge said. “You can learn more about this process by comparing different planets as opposed to just thinking about what’s occurring on Earth or what’s occurring on Mars.”

Thanks to data provided by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite, scientists looked at the topography of the outlets and the crater rims of 24 paleolakes and their outlet canyons.

One of the craters examined in the recent study, Jezero Crater, happens to be the most likely spot where NAS’s Mars 2020 Rover mission is going to land.

The Jezero Crater was picked because there is ample evidence that suggests it contained large amounts of water, for long periods in Mars’ distant past.

The study was published in the journal Geology.

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