A new research confirmed that Mars ridges, just as the polygonal ones found on Earth, have different sources even though they may look the same.
Ridge networks are also called polygonal or boxwork ridges. They can be found on Mars. Most usually, they are around or inside a crater. Mars ridges usually are miles long, high, or wide. Most commonly, they are believed to be the result of impacts. This theory is based on the studies on the same formations. But these latter were detected on Earth.
Such large impacts could potentially lead to fractures, dikes, or faults. Later on, these can be filled by fluids and work as channels. As the surrounding materials erode, the end result will usually be a hard ridge.
But a recent study showed that the Mars ridges may also have another origin. Earlier this week, NASA released images of some quite unique ridges. They were seen to have thin walls. And to also be quite high. These Mars ridges are estimated to be as tall as a 16-story building.
NASA scientists took to studying the unusual formations. Although they are similar to others, they have a very different origin. A study on the matter was carried out by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California scientists.
They were led by Laura Kerber. Research results were released earlier this month. A study was published in the Icarus journal. It became available online in Volume 281 and was titled as follows. “Polygonal ridge networks on Mars: Diversity of morphologies and the special case of the Eastern Medusae Fossae Formation”.
Previous rover missions on Mars detected the Mars ridges. These can have various shapes. For example, they may be polygonal, triangular, or rectangular. Usually, they also differ in size. Ridge networks most commonly include differently sized and shaped formations.
The study addresses the Mars ridges detected by the Curiosity rover. They were discovered near to the planet’s South Pole. This area is more commonly titled as the “Inca City”.
This latter houses a polygonal ridge network. The ridges were noted to outline various rectangles. Each such shape is up to a mile wide. Upon taking a closer look, research determined that they appeared due to impacts. But these were caused by underground activity. Most likely, seismic events.
These latter caused the usual fractures. But they may have been filled by lava, which later hardened. After many years, erosions could have once again exposed them.
Mars ridges have been known to have various origins. But most fluids are filled by a more “peaceful’ fluid. For example, other networks are mineral veins. Tests on them show attest to the presence of water on Mars.
A polygonal ridge network detected in Mars’s northern regions points out another fact. This was discovered in the Nilosyrtis Mensae region. Studies seem to indicate the area’s ancient warm climate. It could have been a wet region with many hot springs. And it could have also held clay mineral channels.
These latter could have been filled by ancient streams. Still, this theory is quite hard to prove. Researchers would need larger samples.
Kerber, the aforementioned lead, offered some details. According to her, the polygonal ridges could be a key to understanding early Mars. They were seen to have very varied origins. As such, they may hold much more data. Quite a lot of the Mars ridges are mineral veins.
By analyzing the minerals, scientists can determine the following. They can detect either the water source or what the fluid carried in its course. And the recent study also points out Mars’s volcanic activity.
Mars ridges still hold many mysteries. As such, Kerber is asking for help from the citizens. Volunteers can join the CTX volunteer program. CTX is the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Context Camera.
This takes images which can be accessed and analyzed through the citizen-science project. Participating members could help discover new, undetected polygonal ridges.
Such discoveries could help guide the HiRISE camera. This is the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment.
Scientists are now trying to better understand the relation between the ridges and the surrounding features. The citizen-science Mars ridges program was initiated on January 17. It is called Planet Four: Ridges.
Image Source: Wikimedia