While the international scientific community has celebrated the discovery of water on Mars, a new observation has brought to light a potentially challenging issue – rolling Martian stones. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the Budapest University of Technology and Economics have discovered smooth and rounded rocks on the surface of the red planet, which suggest they could have been rolled there for several miles, possibly down a river.
This can potentially contradict earlier scientific assumptions that the ancient streams on Mars were short lived, instead leading to speculation on the existence of large waterways sometime in the red planet’s distant history.
The rounded Mars stones were first found by NASA’s Curiosity rover near its landing point at the Gale Crater. Scientists have concluded that these rocks bear a striking resemblance to those typically found in river systems on our own planet. Research has determined that there was no other way for them to become round other than rolling down riverbeds and hitting other rocks in the process.
It was also determined that in order for them to reach those particular shapes, taking into account their size as well, they must have rolled in a river for a considerable amount of time. This of course leads to much speculation about the nature of ancient hypothesized river streams on Mars and if these could have harbored life at all.
A geophysicist from Pennsylvania, currently engaged in the study of the round Martian pebbles, has said:
“We believe liquid water is a principal ingredient for life. Knowing whether pebbles in a river moved one kilometer or 100 kilometers (the equivalent of approximately 62 miles) could tell us how stable water was on the surface of ancient Mars.”
Gabor Domokos, an applied mathematician and study co-author from the Budapest University of Technology, has gone into further detail in explaining how the shape of an object can reveal different information about it. Domokos said that researchers were able to identify a specific code that can help better understand the natural history objects, like sand typically found on the beach.
Domokos further said that this study constitutes the first of its kind to be used in an attempt to identify the history of an object based entirely on its shape. Scientists have further tested their hypothesis by rolling fragments of limestone in a drum and documenting the changes in mass and shape. At the end of the experiment, they concluded that the pattern of change observed in the Mars pebbles closely resembled their own results.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia