Friday, July 25, 2014

Did Water or Lava Form Valles Marineris?
Ancient Aliens on Mars II
A new research paper by Giovanni Leone of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology published in the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, argues that Mars' vast canyons and outflow channels were formed by volcanism, not water. This is crucial to the debate about whether life on Mars ever existed (it did) or even exists now (it does) because if canyons like Valles Marineris were formed by lava, there is much less water to work with in Mars' distant past, making life less likely.

Valles Marineris on Mars

However, there are several flaws with the paper, primarily that it is extremely difficult to distinguish between igneous (volcanic) and sedimentary (usually water formed) rocks from orbit. It also depends on the existence of a series of invisible ancient volcanos on the Tharsis rise for which there is no evidence whatsoever.

There really are only two viable scenarios for the existence of Valles Marineris, Graham Hancock's "Astra" scenario, in which a massive asteroid got inside Mars' Roche Limit and blasted the planet in the location of the Hellas Basin, and the Mars Tidal Model authored by Richard C. Hoagland and myself.
The "Astra" concept.

In the "Astra" scenario, a massive asteroid or planetoid wanders inside the Roche Limit of Mars and blasts the planet in the Hellas basin, ripping through the guts of Mars. The impact tears a split in the side of the planet (Valles Marineris) and pushes out the massive Tharsis bulge on the other side. In this scenario, Valles Marineris would be mostly lava, because the rip in the side of the planet would allow volcanic lava and magma from deep inside the planet to bubble upward and then cool. 
In the Mars Tidal Model however, Valles Marineris is a massive tidal bore, formed when the planet had vast liquid oceans on the Tharsis and Arabia bulges 180 degrees apart on the surface on Mars. With Mars imprisoned in a tidally-locked orbital relationship with a Super Earth named Maldek or "Planet V," the water flowed back and forth between the two oceans for eons and carved out the deep scar of Valles Marineris.
Either way, the new paper is not conclusive to either argument. The ultimate test will be NASA ever lands a probe/rover in Valles Marineris and tests for sodium in the soil. The presence of salt would conclusively prove that Valles Marineris was formed by a salt water flow, rather than the "Astra" impact. But who knows how long it will be (if ever) before such a landing is even attempted, much less made. Time will, as always, tell.
Join me at Contact in the Desert August 8-11 to discuss this!

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