Water Flow on Mars Shifted Pebbles Down 50-km, Says Study

Recalling how Greek philosopher Aristotle wondered the round pebbles on the beaches, present-day space researchers have unveiled first signs of flowing water on Mars estimating that some round pebbles travelled 50 kilometers down the ancient river systems of the Red Planet.

Image: University of Pennsylvania

Image: University of Pennsylvania

The findings reinforce the widely-held view that life could have existed on Mars surface some million years ago and it could still be beneath the surface of the Mars.

Douglas Jerolmack and Gabor Domokos from the University of Pennsylvania have for the first time quantitatively estimated the transport distance of river pebbles based on their shape. “Until recently, descriptions of pebble shape have been qualitative, and we lacked a basic understanding of the rounding process,” said Jerolmack.

Examining the available images of Mars surface with rounded pebbles as snapped by the Curiosity rover, they have measured their contours and simulated models to suggest that the pebbles had lost approximately 20 percent of their volume.

Further, extrapolating the findings, they said the pebbles had travelled an estimated 50 km from their source. More than Mars pebbles, the new tool developed to determine the travel of pebbles may open a new source to determine sources of river-transported minerals such as gold, said researchers.

“Now we have a new tool we can use to help reconstruct ancient environments on Earth, Mars and other planetary bodies where rivers are found such as Titan,” Jerolmack and Domokos said in their paper published in the journal Nature Communications.

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