Beacon Transcript – Recent studies have shown that a natural, strangely shaped funnel depression may be the best location in which to look for signs of life on Mars.
The new searching ground was determined by a University of Texas, Austin research which was published in the Icarus, or the International Journal of Solar System Studies earlier this month.
University of Texas Jackson School of Geosciences Institute for Geophysics associate researcher, Joseph Levy, was the study’s lead author.
According to Levy, the funnel depression drew the team’s attention because of its possibility of housing some habitability key ingredients namely heat, water, and nutrients.
The natural depression is believed to have been formed by a volcano located underneath a glacier, which would have led to a warm temperature and a chemical-rich environment.
The funnel depression is located on the rim of the Martian Hellas basin, inside one of its craters, its neighboring formations including ancient glacial formations.
The glacial ice formations were reported to have been similar to the ice cauldrons which can be found on Earth in the Greenland and Iceland areas.
They are formed by volcanic eruptions as they take place beneath a sheet of ice. Similar depressions have also been spotted in the Martian Galaxias Fossae area.
The research sought to determine if the strange looking depressions were formed with the help of underground volcanic eruptions, or by the more frequently encountered asteroid impacts.
Also joining in on the study were Mount Holyoke College and Brown University researchers, as well as Timothy Goudge, an institute postdoctoral fellow.
The aforementioned Goudge created digital elevation models of the Martian funnel depressions which were based on the more recent high-definition images of the area.
The digital models allowed for a better research of the depressions’ structure and shape which led to a more in-depth analysis.
The 3D models also enabled them to test and determine the formation means of the structure, as the quantity of material lost during their formation could now be calculated.
The depressions’ similarities to a funnel were as such discovered, as they were seen to get increasingly more narrow as they advanced in depth.
The two depression led to different results as although not yet certain, the Galaxias Fossae was most probably formed by a surface impact.
However, the Hellas funnel depression did not reveal the debris which would have resulted from an impact.
The area also presents traces of its volcanic origin and also features the fracture pattern which has been attributed to the sublimation or melting ice removal phenomenon.
If the areas are proven to have been formed by an underground volcanic eruption under ice, they would make prime locations for Earth-like life development environments.
As the area would contain liquid water mixed with chemical nutrients, it could potentially favor the appearance of microbial life-forms.
As such the funnel depression will continue to be analyzed by scientists, especially as they are searching for signs of life on Mars.
Image Source: Wikimedia