We know that in its earliest days, Mars may not have been warm, but it seems that its surface works the same that its counterpart does on Earth. This is the conclusion of new research showing what the Red Planet looked like in its first billion years. Scientists have analyzed more than 10,000 segments of valleys on Mars. They were inspired by the Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic, which looks dry and frigid. It seems that some valleys from Mars have been formed through a similar process to those on Devon Island’s ice.
Anna Grau Galofre, who is the lead author of this research stated: “If you look at Earth from a satellite, you see a lot of valleys: some of them made by rivers, some made by glaciers, some made by other processes, and each type has a distinctive shape. Mars is similar, in that valleys look very different from each other, suggesting that many processes were at play to carve them.”
One of these processes could actually be meltwater flowing between a particular ice sheet and the ground below it. This kind of erosion can produce a different valley pattern than the one we’ve seen in a free-flowing river. Many of the valleys found on Mars have a better match for that ice sheet formation model.
The lead author of the research, together with her colleagues, looked for more info on the detailed maps produced by the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter. This one has flown on NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft and has studied Mars for a few years. Scientists have developed a program that included six different characteristics of more than 10,000 valley segments. Then, they compared them with attributes based on four different formation scenarios.