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Curiosity Rover finds evidence of ancient megaflood on Mars

 Curiosity Rover finds evidence of ancient megaflood on Mars 

Photo of mount sharp in gale crater on Mars

Mars today can be incredibly dry and dusty, but there continues to be evidence that it was once a very watery world. Now the curiosity rover has received signs of an ancient flood of biblical proportions, most likely kicked off by a climate-changing asteroid impact.

Apart from a few super salty underground lakes, modern Mars is a global desert. But this was not always the case - decades of those circling the sky and rovers on the surface have unearthed the dry remains of rivers, lakes and even oceans. Those structures may have a peaceful picture of early Mars, but a new study suggests that a land is still surrounded by water.

Over the past eight years, Curiosity Rover has been searching for a location, known as the Gale Crater, and slowly climbing its central peak called Mount Sharp. It quickly became apparent that the crater used to be a lake that would fill up periodically and dry up over tens of millions of years. But now it seems that one refill was far more intense than the others.

In the new study, researchers at Jackson State University, Cornell, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the University of Hawaii identified sedimentary structures in the Gayle Crater, indicating that megaflood occurred there about 4 billion years ago. A series of symmetrical gravels appears to be "antidunes" each 10 meters (32.8 ft) high - sedimentary formations, which form here under the very fast flowing Water on Earth.

By measuring the distance between each ridge, the team was able to estimate that they were formed by traveling at least 24 meters (78.7 ft) deep in flood waters and 10 meters (32.8 ft) per second.

"We identified megafloods for the first time using detailed sedimentary data observed by rover curiosities," says study co-author Alberto G. Fairén. "Deposits left behind by Megaflood were not previously identified with orbiter data."

So what could be the reason for such excessive floods? Researchers believe the most likely explanation is a huge impact by an asteroid, which at that time melted huge blocks of ice-covered ice. It will release massive amounts of water vapor, carbon dioxide, and methane into the atmosphere, which will temporarily change the climate in a hot, wet world.

This scenario would have resulted in torrential rain, which would then have moved towards the slopes of Gale Crater and Mount Sharp to produce flash floods in the lowlands.

"Early Mars was a highly active planet from a geological point of view," Fairén says. "There were prerequisites to support the presence of liquid water on the surface of the planet - and on Earth, where there is water, there is life. So early Mars was a habitable planet. Was it inhabited? It is a question that the next Rover perseverance will help answer. "

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13 January 2021 at 04:15 ×

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