No, we are not flying to Mars, yet. With development on hold and the relocation of Hotgates underway, we took a break from our daily activities to volunteer in a citizen-powered scientific research, to help identify geological features of Mars. Why Mars and why now? Mars plays a big role in the story of Project:Origins and the more we studied it the more we got to love the planet. Helping out to understand Mars even a little bit more is worth our time, plus we get to see never before seen images of the planet.
The Red Planet
Mars is home to some impressive geological features across its cold, barren surface, many of which can also be found here on Earth. Studying the various geological features of the Red Planet gives scientists a glimpse into its natural history. What climate changes happened on the planet, where did water once flow, and how similar is Mars to Earth? One such interesting geological feature are the polygon-ridge networks that have been observed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).
The latest that was discovered, is a 16 story high polygon-ridge network that scars Mars’ equator, in the Medusae Fossae. Although this ridge is similar to others that have been spotted on the planet many times before, researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have produced a survey which claims, that these ridges may have different origins. That fact set Laura Kerber, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on a quest to find all the types of polygonal ridges on Mars. In a NASA press release she went on to explain:
[edgtf_blockquote text=” “Polygonal ridges can be formed in several different ways, and some of them are really key to understanding the history of early Mars. Many of these ridges are mineral veins, and mineral veins tell us that water was circulating underground.”” title_tag=”h1″ width=”90″]
A very known and impressive polygon ridge, almost 2 kilometers in height, is the “Inca City“, discovered by the Mars Global Surveyor near Mars’ south pole. This ridge is believed to be the result of meteor impacts. The impacts created underground fractures which filled with lava over time. On the surface erosion from wind and maybe water, slowly stripped away the rocky material leaving only the lava.
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The David to this Goliath is a polygon ridge known as the “Garden City“. This mini polygon ridge measures only a few centimeters in height and was discovered by the The Mars Curiosity rover mission. Researchers used the Mastcam and other instruments on the rover in 2015 to study the structure and composition of the mineral veins and what fluids might have deposited those minerals there.
The network found in the Medusae Fossae region and similar-looking networks around the surface of Mars were the subject of a survey led by Laura Kerber, which was published recently in the scientific journal Icarus. These ridges are not unique to Mars, they have also been found here on Earth and those too were created by different processes. A prime example is Shiprock in northwestern New Mexico, a ridge roughly 10 meters high that was formed from lava filling an underground fracture then resisting erosion better than the material around it did.
[edgtf_image_gallery type=”image_grid” column_number=”3″ pretty_photo=”yes” grayscale=”no” images=”6784,6785,6786″ image_size=”full”]
Water and volcanic activity on Mars is non existent and has been so for millions of years. These geological features are evidence that the Red Planet was once a living planet much like Earth. Finding more of these polygon-ridges, will help scientists to study the geological record of the planet and unlock its mysteries. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Laura Kerber, are seeking help from the public through a citizen-powered science project called Planet Four: Ridges. They have requested help to map where these polygonal ridges occur by looking at images from the MRO’s Context Camera (CTX) still orbiting Mars after 10 years, 10 months and 19 days (3872 sols) (at the time of writing). Additionally the locations identified will serve as likely targets for future higher resolution observations.
If you love Mars like we do or if you love science in general and want to help out, head over to Zooniverse and sign up. Hey, you will also get to see images of the planet never before released and believe us, some are simply beautiful.