The huge gap of depression found in Mars is much like the Colorado River that bisects the United States, a new study shows.
Researchers found “significant amounts of water” in that Mars drainage system. They used models to simulate a path on Mars that follows the contours of the Grand Canyon, a region that is roughly 60 miles (100 kilometers) wide and about 3 miles (5 km) deep in places.
But they discovered that the region extends to an astonishing 63 miles (100 km) long and only 18 miles (30 km) wide. The meaning? “This bottom canyon is much larger than scientists had considered,” the researchers wrote.
They say the observation fits with theories of the interior of Mars’ Vast Traps, named for two volcanoes that sit near each other in the trenches of a vast reservoir. Mars is thought to have once possessed a very wet planet, with underground lakes and oceans once covering the whole planet. About 4 billion years ago, the surface of Mars was covered in oceans and the surrounding atmosphere was so thick it is believed that the planet would have maintained a global climate stable for as long as 3 billion years. As the atmosphere dimmed in the atmosphere expanded, the planet’s temperatures soared. It did not take long for the volatile chemicals on the surface to escape.
The Vast Traps represent the remnants of the ancient channels, vents and canyons that were flowing as rivers, streams and submersibles.
“Groundwater flowing at rates similar to those in the Colorado River is the source of the vast majority of the water flowing in the structure and was the driving force behind its hydraulic evolution,” the researchers wrote.
These structures may have served as sources of freshwater for Mars over billions of years, they added.
The research was published online Nov. 18 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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