Ancient Martian rivers discovered at planned ExoMars rover landing site

How does Oxia Planum compare to other pieces of Mars?

Mars is, on ordinary, all around 225 million kilometres absent from Earth, which is approximately 600 occasions further more than the distance between the Earth and the Moon. Inspite of this length, individuals have been sending scientific missions to the red planet for a lot more than 50 yrs.

The to start with spacecraft to orbit another earth, NASA’s Mariner 9, arrived on 14 November 1971, narrowly forward of two spacecraft sent by the Soviet Union. Though these probes arrived afterwards, they did deploy the first rover to land on Mars, even if contact was lost with it soon soon after landing.

Since then, a wide range of spacecraft have effectively touched down on Mars, such as six rovers. These probes have substantially enhanced our understanding of the world, significantly what it was like above 3 billion a long time back when it is attainable that it could have supported everyday living.

In comparison to the places earlier visited by spacecraft, Oxia Planum is significantly older. It is on normal all over 500 million many years more mature than the deposits in the Jezero crater which is presently getting explored by NASA’s Perseverance rover.

Dr Peter Grindrod, a Analysis Chief at the Museum and co-author on the paper, describes, ‘Parts of Oxia Planum have been buried in the previous, possibly by volcanic action, particles from big meteorite impacts, or wind-deposited sediments, in advance of remaining uncovered again by wind erosion.’ 

‘What we’re still left with in this circumstance is the reverse of what would usually be expected, with the route of the rivers sticking out earlier mentioned the landscape in favourable relief.’

‘We’ve described these formations as fluvial sinuous ridges (FSRs), and they have survived for the reason that the aged river units are more resistant to erosion than the encompassing landscape.’

The FSRs point to a earlier Mars that is pretty various from the one particular we know currently. Massive rivers, stretching at the very least 70 kilometres very long and as substantially as 600 metres wide, fashioned from 4 distinctive catchment locations and would have meandered by the flat Oxia Planum.

While researchers are uncertain how these rivers were being fed, it is probable that rainfall or snow and ice melt could have been accountable. The existence of h2o could have then led to the formation of the phyllosilicates, which have right up until now pushed scientific interest in the internet site.

‘We knew the website was prosperous in phyllosilicates, but we did not know how they finished up there,’ Peter says. ‘There have been a lot of various hypotheses, but as the the greater part of the river methods we have mapped comprise phyllosilicates it could properly be the circumstance that these clay minerals fashioned in river environments.’

The results are element of a multi-yr effort and hard work by Uk and intercontinental researchers to look into Oxia Planum prior to the rover landing. This get the job done was funded by the United kingdom Space Agency by means of the Aurora programme.