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On the surface of Mars there are thousands of landforms that look like the lava that flows from volcanoes. Up until now, its existence has been a puzzle, but a european team led by the Institute of Geophysics of the Czech Academy of Science thinks they know what it is in reality. What appeared to be volcanoes regular may actually be “volcanoes” of mud. In short, it is nothing more than mud.

The majority of those mysterious streams are located in channels of mass entrained to the surface by ancient liquids that flow downstream. These channels are extremely long, extending many hundreds of kilometers long and generally more than tens of kilometers wide. It is believed that they are the result of massive flooding that involved huge bodies of water comparable to the floods larger that have occurred in the Earth. When the water seeps into the subsoil, it may emerge again as mud.

The researchers simulated the movement of the sludge on the surface of Mars, whose results are published in “Nature Geoscience”. Using the Camera of Mars at the Open University, the scientists recreated the surface temperature and the atmospheric pressure on Mars as part of a simulation of conditions both on Earth and on the red Planet.

The circular crater collapsed of a mud volcano in Azerbaijan

“We conducted experiments in a vacuum chamber to simulate the release of mud on Mars. This is interesting because we see many features of the flow on Mars in images of space ships, but still have not been visited by any of the vehicles travelling on the surface and there is some ambiguity about whether they are lava flows or mud,” explains Lionel Wilson, emeritus professor of Earth Sciences and Planetary of the University of Lancaster.

The scientists conducted experiments at low pressure and extremely cold temperatures (-20 ° C) to recreate the atmosphere martian. They discovered that the sludge that flows freely in conditions on mars behaves differently than on Earth, due to the rapid freezing and the formation of a frozen crust. This is because the water is not stable and starts to boil and evaporate. The evaporation removes the latent heat of the slurry, which eventually causes it to freeze.

Similar to Hawaii

In conditions of martian flows are experimental sludge formed shapes similar to lava “pahoehoe” which frequently occurs in Hawaii or Iceland on Earth, it cools to form uneven surfaces smooth. In the experiment, this happened when the slurry is poured through ruptures in the cortex frozen and then turned back to freeze.

however, under the atmospheric pressure, terrestrial flows experimental sludge is not formed forms of lava, not expanded and not had a frozen crust, even in very cold conditions.

This “vulcanism sedimentary” has also been proposed to the dwarf planet Ceres, which is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and can have an ocean of muddy water beneath an icy crust.

“we Suggest that the volcanism of the mud may explain the formation of certain morphologies of flow similar to the lava on Mars, and that similar processes can be applied to eruptions of mud in the icy bodies in the outer Solar System, like Ceres,” says Petr Bro, lead author of the study.