Changes in the geography of Mars have always attracted significant scientific and even public attention. A hope for signs of liquid water (and therefore life) is possibly one of the primary driving forces behind this interest.
A particularly striking changing feature is the recurrent slope lineae (RSL) originally found by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).
Now, there is a revised theory for scientists at the SETI Institute where those RSLs can develop – only a combination of water ice and salt under the surface of Mars.
According to the SETI team led by Senior Research Scientist Janice Bishop, a two-stage process is underway that creates these RSLs.
First, underground water ice must be mixed with a combination of chlorine salts and sulfates to form a slurry destabilizing the regolith in the area.
Then, Mars’ dry air and dust storms blow volatile material into the Martian surface in new patterns.
This is not the first time that researchers have suggested that chlorine salts may be involved in the formation of RSL. With very good science, this theory is now further elucidated through data collected in both field and laboratory experiments.
Unfortunately, field experiments could not be carried out on Mars itself (at least not yet).
However, there are many places on our home planet that are considered “Mars analogs”, including the Dead Sea in Israel, the Salar de Pajonales in the Atacama Desert, and the dry valleys in Antarctica.
The SETI team collected data at some of those locations and noted that surface instability had already been observed when salt interacted with gypsum, a type of sulfate.
For this project, the team collected data in dry valleys, where soil geology and temperature are remarkably similar to those found on Mars by Phoenix landers and MROs.
The fieldwork was then carried out by lab work, as the team subjected the analogue analogue of Mars to tests using color indicators that would show how the regolith simulant would react when subjected to the same kind of chemical reactions occurring in Entolactica. .
With all this data collected, the geological model includes sulfates, chlorides, and water, which may account for the presence of RSL observed on the surface of Mars.
The model also has implications for the subsurface Mars’ ability to exist, and the presence of this solution can affect any biosphere that may be a red planet.
This model will be difficult to prove until there are some more on-site trials, but there are plenty of plans for Mars in the near future.
This article was originally published by Universe Today. Read the original article.