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Mars: Scientists Find Signs of Possible Erosion From Snowfall or Rain

Jul 23, 2013 09:21 PM EDT
Mars' Mt. Sharp
Mars' Mt. Sharp most likely emerged as strong winds carried dust and sand into Gale Crater where the mound sits. If correct, the research could dilute expectations that the mound is the remnant of a massive lake, which would have important implications for understanding Mars' past habitability.
(Photo : Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/MSSS)

Scientists have uncovered evidences that suggest that snow and precipitation may have been a common occurrence in Mars at some point in the past.

The evidences in the form of a network of valleys account for the most recent findings pointing that the red planet geological structure was shaped by runoff from rain or snow.

The scientists at the Brown University, who studied the formation of Mars' valley networks, came to the conclusion that some of these valley networks were created by flowing water at some point in the red planet's past.

However, according to the press release, scientists were not able to conclusively answer whether the water in question was originated from underground springs or precipitation.

The study, led by Kat Scanlon, a graduate student at the university, was published in the journal  Geophysical Research Letters.

Examining the various valley networks of Mars, researchers discovered evidence that

Four of these Martian networks of valleys, the study found, may have been caused by the runoff from precipitation.

"[By] the process known as orographic precipitation, when moist air rises up a mountain and cools to the point of condensation which leads to rain or snow, could explain the creation of valley networks which would appear on one side of a Martian mountain but not on the other side," said Scanlon.

"The winds climbing a mountain do not have enough energy to reach the summit, causing one side to receive all the precipitation while the other of the mountain would not receive any precipitation."

According to the study, four valley networks connected to a crater or mountain were analyzed through a computer model to determine wind direction.

According to Scanlon, the models revealed heaviest precipitation occurred at the head of the deepest valley networks. "Their drainage density varies in the way you would expect from the complex response of precipitation to topography," said Scanlon. 

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