Evidence found of lake, catastrophic flood on Mars
NASM NEWS RELEASE
Posted: June 22, 2002
The flood channel, Ma'adim Vallis, is more than 550 miles long and up to 6,900 feet deep, making it larger than Earth's Grand Canyon.
"Imagine more than five times the volume of water in the Great Lakes being released in a single flood, and you'll have a sense of the scale of this event," said Ross Irwin, a geologist in the museum's Center for Earth and Planetary Studies (CEPS) and the paper's lead author.
Mars is now a cold desert planet but its many dry valleys could indicate that water once flowed on its surface. Recent results from the Mars Odyssey spacecraft have found evidence of water trapped in the near surface of the polar regions.
"The size of this lake-1,400 miles long-suggests Mars was warmer and wetter than previously thought," said Robert Craddock, a CEPS geologist and co-author of the paper.
Former lakes are considered the most likely places to preserve the record of any past Martian life. Calm water would allow sediments to be deposited slowly, preventing small organisms from being destroyed.
The source of water to carve the flood channel had long been a mystery to scientists, who had known very little about Mars' topography prior to the Mars Global Surveyor mission, which has been orbiting Mars since 1997.
Two other smaller lake basins were identified in the region by paper co-author Alan Howard, a geologist at the University of Virginia. All three lakes shared the same water level prior to the flood, indicating the possibility of an ancient water table and suggesting the locations of other dry lake basins on Mars. Such information could be important in determining where to land robotic probes in coming years.
CEPS is the scientific research unit within the Collections and Research Department of the National Air and Space Museum. CEPS performs original research and outreach activities on topics covering planetary science, terrestrial geophysics, and the remote sensing of environmental change.
The ultimate Apollo 11 DVD|
This exceptional chronicle of the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing mission features new digital transfers of film and television coverage unmatched by any other.
U.K. WORLDWIDE STORE
The first in a series of space DVDs is now available from the Astronomy Now Store. Relive shuttle Columbia's March flight to refurbish the Hubble Space Telescope in spectacular DVD quality.
U.K. & WORLDWIDE STORE
The Apollo 14 Complete Downlink DVD set (5 discs) contains all the available television downlink footage from the Apollo 14 mission. A two-disc edited version is also available.