Sunday, December 20, 2015

Dry Ice Causing Martian Channel Creation?

Identification of Mars gully activity types associated with ice composition


Vincendon et al


The detection of geologically recent channels at the end of the twentieth century rapidly suggested that liquid water could have been present on Mars up to recent times. A mechanism involving melting of water ice during ice ages in the last several million years progressively emerged during years following the first observations of these gullies. However, the recent discovery of current activity within gullies now suggests a paradigm shift where a contemporary CO2 ice-based and liquid water-free mechanism may form all gullies. Here we perform a survey of near-infrared observations and construct time sequences of water and CO2 ice formation and sublimation at active gully sites. We observe that all major new erosive features such as channel development or lengthening systematically occur where and, if applicable, when CO2 ice is observed or probable. CO2 ice layers are however estimated to be only 1 mm to 1 cm thick for low-latitude sites, which may have implication for potential formation mechanisms. We also observe that part of current gully activity, notably the formation of some new deposits, is poorly compatible with the presence of CO2 ice. In particular, all new bright deposits reported in the literature have a low CO2 ice probability while water ice should be present at most sites. Our results confirm that CO2 ice is a key factor controlling present-day channel development on Mars and show that other mechanisms, potentially involving sublimation or melting of water ice, are also contributing to current gully activity.

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