The cracks in Mars’ surface may be the fossilized remains of a web of water, according to new research released Tuesday.
The findings, accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, may explain a mysterious network of ridges that vein across the Red Planet’s subsurface -- describing a watery underground that may be an ideal spot to search for evidence of past life.
Researchers from Brown University used data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to examine more than 4,000 of these strange ridges across two crater-pocked areas, the Nilosyrtis highlands and the Nili fossae area, studying the ridges’ orientations and the composition of the rocks.
The ridges probably started out as the cracks from impact craters, the researchers concluded, an idea bolstered by the fact that the ridges’ orientation seems to match those of the craters where they’re found. And they seem to appear only in areas where the rock is rich in iron-magnesium clay – a mineral that signals the past presence of water.