On Mars there are phenomena that we can also find on Earth, such as dust devils. A new study published online in the journal Nature Geoscience has found another similarity with our planet: i mud volcanoes.
The northern hemisphere of Mars is dotted with tens of thousands of conical hills, some of which are full of small craters. Some researchers speculated that these features were created by mud volcanoes, but this hypothesis has been difficult to assess. The experts, in fact, do not know how the mud moves on the Red Planet, since it is very cold and has an atmospheric pressure 150 times lower to that of Earth.
In the new study, the researchers discovered just this: they ran mud through a laboratory chamber that mimicked the conditions of Mars (without the gravity of the planet). “Under the low atmospheric pressure of Mars, mud flows behave in much the same way as ‘pāhoehoe’, a type of lava that is familiar to the great volcanoes of Hawaii and Iceland“says lead author of the study Petr Brož.
In detail, the pahoehoe it is formed by a very fluid lava which after cooling has produced a thin film on its surface. This behavior is driven by the low pressure of Mars, which cannot sustain the existence of liquid surface waters for long. As the water evaporates, it absorbs heat and cools the remaining mud; the latter freezes from the outside, forming a crust around the soft casting.
Recall that the study does not prove that the northern hills of Mars are mud volcanoes, but shows that they can exist. Will we find out in 2033?