Apr 28, 2008
Martian Water Features
Structures on Mars that resemble Earth’s hydrothermal
vents or eroded mounds have sparked renewed interest in
water flowing over the Red Planet. Are they evidence for
scars from electric arcs instead?
Recently, analysts from
NASA’s Johnson Space Center
announced the discovery of mounds on Mars that might be
the remains of ancient hydrothermal vents. Because they have
similar appearance to fossilized “mound springs” in the
Australian Outback, researchers have theorized that both
structures could be of similar origin.
Hydrothermal vents were a
startling discovery for scientists when the first deep water
exploration of the mid-ocean ridge was conducted. The
surprise was not that the vents were spewing black,
mineral-rich water at over 300 degrees Celsius but that
there were colonies of living organisms surrounding them and
thriving in a frigid environment a thousand meters or more
beneath the sea.
Since conventional geological theories suggest that the
ocean bottoms have changed places with the high places on
Earth over millions of years, the formations that were once
in the deep are now located on mountain tops or in torrid
deserts. Formations like the Australian mounds are thought
to be the remains of hydrothermal vents that were once
active on the bottom of an ancient sea.
A few of the
mound springs in Australia retain connections to underground water sources
and continue to flow after millions of years. Some of them are nothing more than
circular discolorations that identify striations composed of different chemical
composition. According to the theory, hot mineralized water that once jetted out
from the vent left ring-shaped cross-sections as the eruptions lost their
geothermal energy and shut down after eons of existence. When the land and sea
changed places, the fossilized vents relocated to the desert.
Modern science has retained
the long-hoped-for desire that Mars could be the cradle of
different life forms that arose and evolved in a separate
ecology. As the overall theory goes, in order for what has
become the subtext of nearly every presentation about Mars
to exist, the planet must have gone through a stage when
there were oceanic quantities of liquid water on the
surface. This idea also implies that Mars once retained an
atmosphere dense enough in oxygen (and a moderating gas)
that life could respire in the open.
However, there is disagreement in the scientific community
about whether such volumes of water could ever have existed
on Mars. In the March 5, 2007 edition of Scientific
American, it was reported that most of what has been
interpreted as water-based erosion on Mars could have come
from “dry avalanches” of dirt. The authors expressed serious
doubts about whether observations have demonstrated any
effects caused by liquid water.
Allan Treiman, a geologist from Houston's Lunar and
Planetary Institute wrote: "The idea of it being liquid
water was a very reasonable hypothesis to start with. From
my standpoint liquid water hasn't been proved at all."
cannot be the result of water erosion. Since they’re found
within the so-called “alluvial fans” that seem to indicate
deposits left behind by deltas or other aquatic action, then
the backbone of that theory has a serious flaw. Another
often-overlooked aspect to what is happening on Mars is the
electrical activity that can occur when dry mountains of
dust move as a large mass
The supposed water runoff
from the rims of large craters or down the slopes of giant
volcanoes is probably not the result of melting ice from
beneath the surface dust but from falls of dust down slope.
The blackened tracks left by such falls provide evidence for
their electrical origin and not an aqueous one.
The large-scale structure of Mars with its continent-wide
canyon, gigantic volcanoes, thousand-kilometer-wide craters,
fractures, plateaus and blasted wastelands of crushed stone
was most likely created a relatively short time ago as we
have contended for many years in these pages. Planetary
scientists are beginning to see the signs of catastrophe on
the small scale. Now, they must lift their eyes to the
heights and consider the origin of what they see in the
cliffs and ridges.
By Stephen Smith
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