Ancient Rivers Ran Through Mars

This self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle on Vera Rubin Ridge in Gale crater on Mars. North is on the left and west is on the right with Gale crater's rim on the horizon of both edges. This mosaic was assembled from dozens of

Scientists at the University of Chicago in the USA catalogued these rivers to conclude that significant river runoff persisted on Mars later into its history than thought. Mars is always the first mentioned in this context; it has many properties in common with Earth, and in its geological past water also flowed over its surface. In the river basins for which there are the most data, Mars' rivers were about two times wider than those on Earth. Their study was published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.

Researchers were able to analyze 200 river channels and determine that between 1 and 3.6 billion years ago, intense runoff occurred: 3 to 20 kilograms per meter squared each day. However, the understanding of the ancient Martian climate billions of years ago remains out of reach.

According to our current climate models of Mars, that just shouldn't happen - there's no way the thinning Martian atmosphere could have supported such rivers.

The pair, who have long studied subsurface aquifers and groundwater flow movement on Earth and in desert environments, found similarities between the groundwater moving mechanisms in the Sahara and on Mars.

However, there are many theories proposed for the climate of Mars, and the team says they can be windowed with the existant constraints. The study by scientists at the University of Chicago catalogued these rivers and found that significant river runoff persisted on Mars later into its history than previously thought. As the sun grew brighter and solar winds stripped away its atmosphere, liquid water could no longer exist, and Mars transformed into a cold, dry place.

Around the time as the runoff, which may have been driven by heavy-precipitation events, the climate model for ancient Mars suggests that it was drying out and losing its atmosphere to become the dry planet we know today, with a thin whisper of an atmosphere.

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The Mars we know today is a dry and desolate planet with little atmosphere and no life that we know of. "The largest river in our database has a width of around one kilometer [0.6 miles], which is wider than the MS at St. Louis", study author Edwin Kite, from the University of Chicago, told Newsweek. For instance, the width and steepness of the riverbeds and the size of the gravel tell scientists regarding the force of the water stream, and the amount of the gravel constrains the volume of water coming through.

For example, the rivers' size indicates that they flowed continuously, not just for a few minutes during the warmest part of the Martian day.

"You would expect them to wane gradually over time, but that's not what we see", said Dr Kite. That lasted right up until the end of Mars' more wet era, which ended around a billion years ago.

It is possible the climate had a sort of "on/off" switch, which tipped back and forth between dry and wet cycles, Kite said.

"Our work answers some existing questions but raises a new one".

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