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Islands in a Martian stream

Image of an ancient Martian river channel that has been buried by volcanic material

Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Sapienza University of Rome/MOLA Team/USGS

By Hamish Johnston

A very long time ago, a large amount of water is thought to have flowed on the surface of Mars – and the above image shows what scientists think is an ancient Martian river channel that has been buried by volcanic material.

The river was probably created by a massive release of groundwater and the image shows the main channel as well as islands that have been shaped by the flow. The river is part of the 1000 km-long Marte Vallis channel system, which is believed to have been carved out less than 500 million years ago.

The image was created using the SHARAD radar sounder on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The former was built by the Italian Space Agency and the latter was launched by NASA in 2005. Gareth Morgan and colleagues at the Smithsonian Institution, NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Southwest Research Institute analysed the radar data.

A key finding of the study is that the channel is about twice as deep as previously expected. Indeed, at about 100 m the channel is comparable to the deepest known “megaflood” channel on Earth.

The research is reported in the journal Science.

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One comment to Islands in a Martian stream

  1. M. Reda

    A statement by NASA research group such as:
    \A VERY LONG TIME AGO, A LARGE AMOUNT OF WATER IS THOUGHT TO HAVE FLOWED ON THE SURFACE OF MARS – AND THE ABOVE IMAGE SHOWS WHAT SCIENTISTS THINK IS AN ANCIENT MARTIAN RIVER CHANNEL THAT HAS BEEN BURIED BY VOLCANIC MATERIAL.\
    Is very much not only misleading but incorrect. The surface of Mars is frequently hit by asteroids which can change the morphology of the landscape of Mars. What about the violent sand storms that has a very powerful erosive effect which can change and dump soil from one part of Mars to another.

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