Thursday, September 17, 2009

Patterns in the crater floors on the planet Mars give picture of drying lakes

I know, I know, I'm such a science geek. What can I say? But this is so cool: "Networks of giant polygonal troughs etched across crater basins on Mars have been identified as desiccation cracks caused by evaporating lakes, providing further evidence of a warmer, wetter martian past." reports Science Daily.

The findings were presented at the European Planetary Science Congress by PhD student Mr M Ramy El Maarry of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research. Evidence suggests that between 4.6 and 3.8 billion years ago, Mars was covered in significant amounts of water. Rain and river water would have collected inside impact crater basins, creating lakes that may have existed for several thousand years before drying out. However, El Maarry believes that, in the northern hemisphere, some of the crater floor polygons could have been formed much more recently.

“When a meteorite impacts with the martian surface, the heat can melt ice trapped beneath the martian crust and create what we call a hydrothermal system. Liquid water can fill the crater to form a lake, covered in a thick layer of ice. Even under current climatic conditions, this may take many thousands of years to disappear, finally resulting in the desiccation patterns,” said El Maarry. Read more at Science Daily