Scientists have discovered some buried channels on Mars that show signs of flooding on the planet. The flood channels were discovered near Mars’s equator along a region called Elysium Planitia, one of the youngest volcanic region on the planet. The scientists are currently looking into the cause of the floods, and how they relate to the climate changes on the planet. So far, scientists believe that the flood waters originated from a deep water reservoir that was released by tectonic or volcanic activity.
Scientists from NASA, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, and the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado were able to discover the buried flood channels thanks to the advancement of 3D mapping. They used the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Shallow Radar (SHARAD) to analyze the channels. They believe that the channels are a result of catastrophic flooding on the planet in the past 500 million years.
The scientists were able to discover that there were two different phases in the formation of the flood channels. One of the phases was the etching of small channels through the process of anastomising, or etching through a series of smaller branching. This process allowed water to flow through the four streamlined islands on Mars. The second phase was the carving of the flood channels.
Thanks to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and its Shallow Radar, scientists were able to discover the multiple layers to these channels. This new discovery will help scientists figure out the history of water on Mars, and which “recent hydrologic activity prevailed” during Mars’s cold and dry period. The team of scientists published their findings in the March 7th issue of the journal ‘Science’.