Mars had 'recent' running water (BBC News)


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Mars had 'recent' running water

The gullies may extend the history of running water on the surface of Mars

Mars appears to have had running water on its surface about one million years ago, according to new evidence.

Images from a Nasa spacecraft orbiting the Red Planet show fan-shaped gullies on the surface which seem to be about 1.25 million years old, the study says.

They believe the channels were sculpted by surface water from melting ice.

It may represent the most recent period when water flowed on the planet, a team from Brown University in Rhode Island, US, report in the journal Geology.

Gullies on the Red Planet are known to be young features, but scientists have found it difficult to pin down their precise ages.

But Samuel Schon and colleagues from Brown were able to do this using impact craters on a gully system in Promethei Terra, an area of cratered highlands south of the Martian equator.

"You never end up with a pond that you can put goldfish in," Mr Schon explained.

"But you have transient melt water. You had ice that typically sublimates. But in these instances it melted, transported, and deposited sediment in the fan. It didn't last long, but it happened."

The researchers say the discovery of a gully system, even an isolated one, that supported running water as recently as 1.25 million years ago greatly extends the time that liquid water could have been active on the Red Planet.

It also adds to evidence that Mars experienced a recent ice age in which polar ice is thought to have been transported toward the planet's equator, where it settled in mid-latitude deposits.


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