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   Undertoad  Tuesday Feb 11 12:13 PM

2/11/2003: Gullies on Mars

It may take a while to load, but the detail on this one is important. This is an Astronomy Pic of the Day pic showing some of the surface of Mars from orbit.

Why this is cool: it sure looks like those formations came from water, doesn't it? And on Earth, similar formations are generally caused by water. So they feel these images are further evidence of underground water on Mars. Not at all far underground, either; 30-60 centimeters.

Note that the above image is 1500 meters across.

Uryoces  Tuesday Feb 11 01:01 PM

The key is to find out when these gulllies were formed. If you look closely, you can see what appears to be a half-buried runway. I'd look at it and say, "Hey! That natural feature looks like a runway; how odd." A conspiracy theorist would start screeching and braining peccaries with a wildebeast femur...

Shivaaa  Tuesday Feb 11 02:36 PM

i see it too

I see the runway. And I see Jesus with a mustasche in the lower right corner. This is solid evidence that Christians were baptised in the waters on Mars....

wolf  Tuesday Feb 11 03:02 PM

I was kinda entranced by the flaccid penis and scrotal sac at the top center of the pic ... MUCH more convincing than the "face on mars" pic that is in the tabloids all the time.

Elspode  Tuesday Feb 11 04:21 PM

Wolf, if no one has mentioned that you are amazingly astute and more than slightly warped, then it was a major oversight.

Did you end up in the mental health industry *because* of these factors or *despite* them?

Skunks  Tuesday Feb 11 04:27 PM

All of your discoveries pale in comparison to mine: there is a rake on Mars.

No longer will our young be conscripted into slave labor come Autumn! We will conquer and enslave Martians with pride and honor, like our forefathers before us!

Undertoad  Tuesday Feb 11 05:18 PM

That's no rake. It's a kitty litter scoop.

And the rivulets and gullies? From cat pee!

This is the terrible secret of space! Where is the pusher robot?

wolf  Tuesday Feb 11 06:03 PM

Originally posted by Elspode
Wolf, if no one has mentioned that you are amazingly astute and more than slightly warped, then it was a major oversight.

Did you end up in the mental health industry *because* of these factors or *despite* them?

Do you think it is an accident that I am closely involved with ALL of the doctors that do commitment evaluations in my county of residence

Tee hee ...

Actually, I'm in the mental health industry because I USED to be in the computer(ish) industry. I worked for an advertising sales company (For Hearst Electronics Publications ... Electronic Products and EEM) as their computer geek. One Friday morning I had a job, Friday night I didn't. The company went belly up.

I went to unemployment, did all the paperwork, started getting checks, yadah yadah ... came to the realization that the gubbermint checks weren't going to cover my bills and needed a job REALLY fast. I was talking to a friend of mine who was a nurse here at Club Head. She said they had a position open. I figured it would be something to hold me over until I got a "real" job.

I was hired the next day.

That was 10-1/2 years ago. I now have a Master's Degree in Clinical Psych (which follows a Bachelor's in Geography and Planning ... I actually have some other stuff to say about the Mars pic, but I'm holding off until I'm home and can really take a good look at it) and am considering finding an online doctoral program since I really don't have the time, inclincation, or money to do a traditional doctorate, partcularly since most of them don't recognize an existing master's and make you retake a lot of classes you've already had.

Turns out that I really LIKE psych patients. I find the whole field fascinating (but admittedly frustrating at times).

It's one of those jobs where you either fit in and do it, or you just can't hack it. I took to it like a duck to water.

Now, back to the topic at hand(ish) ...

Looking at images like this is not unlike the Rohrschach. It's actually kind of interesting reading what people are coming up with.

What does MY response mean?

It's been too long since my last visit with my boyfriend.

Torrere  Wednesday Feb 12 12:25 AM

There are some hikers out in the woods on the lower left. Above them seem to be two nude women. A big, downtrodden person is dragging their arm behind them on the right.

Slithy_Tove  Wednesday Feb 12 01:19 AM

Okay, seriously, folks.

The escarpment on the left, with the rivulents leading away from it looks like a lot of the features in the 'basin and range' area of Colorado, Nevada and Utah. When I drive from Vegas to the Grand Canyon area, a lot of the geography inbetween looks like this.

The rising up of that escarpment, and its erosion by liquid, presumably water, must have happened fairly recently, or it would have been destroyed by meteor strikes, c.f. the earth's moon. What 'recently' means, I don't know. A million years? A hundred million? Definitely less than a billion, I'd guess, but I don't know enough of exogeology to be sure.

jaguar  Wednesday Feb 12 04:33 AM

They could be quite old indeed, mars is slowly losing it's atnosphere so the further you look back the less the chance of meteor damage, actual scales of time on this though? I have no idea.

chrisinhouston  Wednesday Feb 12 10:03 AM

They can't fool me, that's just a picture of some kids sandbox. Don't forget when they said they landed on the moon, it was all filmed on a sound stage near Vegas. I saw that James Bond film!

wolf  Wednesday Feb 12 07:52 PM

The Serious Reply

I've been spending a lot of time looking at the gullies image, including the larger resolution version available on the originating website.

The "gullies" are certainly suggestive of a formation type known to be caused by water erosion on Earth. There, however, is the operative statement. On Earth. I don't know that we have enough information regarding the composition of Martian soils to accurately predict the behavior under the particular conditions of temperature, wind, and gravity.

We need more information about the wind speed characteristics, the composition and hardness of the underlying rock, and the hardness of the soil particles that would be scouring that surface under a high wind ... which is another thing. I don't see anything that really stands out as wind erosion. Those features may not have changed over centuries or longer.

There are a couple spots near the bottom center of the picture that do look like the coronas that form from a meteor strike. Those are not disturbed much, so I'm guessing that it's not a windy area.

There ARE features which appear to be slips or subseidance of some kind ... particularly at the bottom of that big "hill" to the middle right.

wolf  Wednesday Feb 12 07:54 PM

Originally posted by Undertoad
That's no rake. It's a kitty litter scoop.

And the rivulets and gullies? From cat pee!
Remember that Night Gallery episode ... really short one? Ran about five minutes ... giant Erector Set mousetrap on some planet with the equally giant mouse?

Drydock  Wednesday Feb 12 09:49 PM


i'm going to throw out a theory here. i might be missing something.

Could a small comet have hit the area, at a semi-shallow angle, scattering debris including ice/slush to the top left of the picture. The new dust ejected from the impact would not be very hard packed, so it wouldn't take a lot of water from the comet to make the gullies. The water then simply soaked into the ground. The apparent water could be an anomaly rather than evidence of widespread water on Mars.

Thank you, that is all.

"Hey, what is this, some kind of tube?" -Bill Clinton

Akhasha  Wednesday Feb 12 09:52 PM


I remember reading a possible explanation of 'water erosion' features when the first evidence of them popped up. Turns out that as frozen CO2 sublimates on a slope, bits can break off and, contacting the warmer ground below, form a cushion of gaseous CO2 that facilitates the slide further down the slope, contacting yet more warm ground etc (by warm I mean hotter than the sublimation point of CO2, around -78deg C).
So it could have been chunks of solid cascading down the slope, buoyed by cushions of gas, which in the aggregatel can be a reasonably 'liquid' phenomenon.
The problem with liquid water flows on the surface any time in the (geologically) recent past is the temperature and pressure measurements we have seem to make it very unlikely. Still its a long ways away and there is much more to learn about this remote, forbidding planet

Thadius  Thursday Feb 13 05:28 PM

I to have found a picture proving life on Mars.

This I believe to be the first sighting of a mouse on mars.

helen  Saturday Feb 15 09:55 AM

I suddenly have to have some chocolate ice-cream.

Elspode  Saturday Feb 15 10:21 AM

Could a small comet have hit the area, at a semi-shallow angle,
On Mars, anything is possible, but in this case, there are *lots* of these sorts of features. Statistically, it is far more likely that we are seeing some flow of inherent water rather than from a single extra-martian source like a comet.

My opinion. I'm not an astrogeologist, and I don't play one on TV, either.

Drydock  Saturday Feb 15 04:03 PM

Maybe it was a, what's the word, um... a big (yeah, that's the word) comet that was smashed into little bitty pieces before it landed, kinda like the fireworks on Jupiter not so long ago. Perhaps the happinings are all along a straight line, or perhaps the comet landed in a scatter pattern rather than single file like Shoemaker-Levy 9. Just hypothanesthetising.

"Would you like to swing on a star, or would you rather be a pig?"

Akhasha  Thursday Feb 20 01:42 AM

The most likely explanation

In brief: snow forms in these craters in the winter months, then later melts - from the rim of the crater down - and the water flows under the still frozen snow further down the slope, which protects it from evaporation in the tenuous atmosphere. If it were a subterranian (subarean?) water source, its unlikely to occur so close to the raised crater rims. This explanation is the most consistet yet.

Your reply here?

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