Mud flows on Mars are similar to some lava flows on earth, according to the article in Nature Geoscience. The discovery suggests that some forms of the relief, which today is associated with igneous volcanism, in fact, can be a sign of activity of mud volcanoes.
Astronomers observe on the surface of Mars many forms of relief, which, in their opinion, could be formed by ancient lava flows. Moreover, the researchers assume that the world existed as ordinary volcanoes spewing magma, and mud, which are formed when the mixture of gas, liquid and fine-grained rocks pushed to the surface from depths from a few meters to several kilometers. However, to determine are those or other terrain features to magmatic or mud volcanism, is quite difficult, since the behavior of mud “lava” in Martian conditions is poorly known.
To find out how they behave but streams of mud on the red planet, Petr Brož (Petr Brož) from the Institute of Geophysics of the Czech Academy of Sciences, together with colleagues conducted a series of experiments. In a vacuum chamber, where they recreated the low Martian atmospheric pressure and temperature, the researchers poured the dirt on the angled tray, which was covered with either a layer of sand with thickness of 2 cm (which simulated a sedimentary rock) or plastic (which mimicked impermeable ice surface), and then watched as it will move down the slope.
It turned out that the fluid mud in the Martian conditions, it behaves differently than in the earth atmosphere. The fact that even at low temperatures (-30 degrees Celsius) the water boils and evaporates, causing the mud quickly cooled, covered with an ice crust and freeze. It is noteworthy that the mud flows formed traces that are reminiscent of pahoehoe, often occurring in Hawaii or in Iceland. They represent frozen on land lava flows with a characteristic waves, folds and swellings. In experiments such education was born when the mud flowed from cracks in the frozen crust, and then solidified.
It is noteworthy that when the earth’s atmospheric pressure experimental mud flows formed a similar shape and had no ice even at low temperatures.
A new study shows that it is important to consider differences in environmental conditions on other celestial bodies when compared with terrestrial landscapes. For example, the observed on the surface of Mars traces attributed to magmatic volcanism, can also be explained by eruptions of mud volcanoes, which casts doubt on the conclusions of previous studies.
Today Mars has no active volcanoes, but in the past there has often occurred the eruption. Some of them were so strong that could affect the inclination of the rotation axis of the planet and even potentially lead to weakening of the magnetic field.