Mars - Evidence of Glaciers Beyond The Poles
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Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 19 August 2023, at 9:43 am PDT
Around four billion years ago, Mars began to transform into the cold and barren landscape we see today. However, there are hints that Mars may have gone through glacial and interglacial periods similar to Earth. These hints come to life through images captured by the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which reveal landforms identical to those found on Earth.
Glaciers on Mars can be seen in features resembling their Earth counterparts, shaped by the ice movement during interglacial periods. These features are found in non-polar regions and can be seen in a black-and-white image taken by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera on the MRO. The photo shows linear ridges on the surface with exposed rocks and valleys filled with materials similar to what is found in terrestrial glaciers.
Linear formations on Mars, known as "rock glaciers," hold geological artifacts formed over eons. These structures trace the story of Martian ice flows and reflect the planet's climatic changes, much like Earth's geological records. As Mars experienced fluctuations in its axial tilt (obliquity), it oscillated between cooling and warming, causing these glaciers to advance and recede while leaving debris from the Martian terrain. These glaciers retreated over time due to melting and sublimation, leaving behind rocks and minerals on ridges and low-lying areas.
These images reveal Mars' dynamic climate, a trait that has existed for over four billion years. This coincides with the planet's rapid core cooling, which is believed to have ended its global magnetic field. As a result, the Martian atmosphere gradually eroded under the constant barrage of solar winds, leading to global cooling and the depletion of surface water. This shift ultimately created the cold, dry Martian landscape we see today.