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Mars Earth News Science Technology

Researchers Solve One Of The Biggest Mysteries About How Water Flows On Mars (gizmodo.com) 99

An anonymous reader writes: Not only is water flowing on Mars, it's also boiling. This experiment published today in Nature Geoscience solves one of the major mysteries about the surface of the red planet. Gizmodo writes, "Researchers built a chamber simulating the conditions and atmosphere of Mars, then put ice in there to melt. The ice did melt and the water from it flowed -- but there was also a surprise. The surface of the water boiled as it flowed, and that boiling was strong enough to move not just the water but also dirt and debris surrounding the streams. Importantly, temperature was not the major factor in this boiling water, it was due to the pressure of the atmosphere." You may remember pictures of flowing water on Mars which surfaced last year. One would think the summer temperatures should be too cold for water to flow on Mars (as seen in the images), however, the water that flows on Mars is a salty-brine which lowers the freezing point of the water. So how does the water manage to carve out the landscape so quickly and visibly? Easy: the boiling water theory. Boiling water hits a boiling stage along its surface, where it kicks up dust and dirt and debris in the water's wake. The research team did see the boiling water move debris, but they also saw collapses along the sides of the flows. The boiling and disturbance it causes etches those lines on Mars clearly enough for satellites to notice them.
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Researchers Solve One Of The Biggest Mysteries About How Water Flows On Mars

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  • by TomGreenhaw ( 929233 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @05:32AM (#52033993)
    Well at least we can start working on apparatus for distilling fresh water from in situ martian brine...
  • This is not intuitively obvious to people who memorized PV = nRT in grade school *HOW*?!?

    Who was this exactly a mystery *from*?

    • This is not intuitively obvious to people who memorized PV = nRT in grade school *HOW*?!?

      Who was this exactly a mystery *from*?

      Well there's the submitter, who stated temperature wasn't a major factor in the boiling. So we've got one person.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Roger Goodell, apparently...

    • by Irate Engineer ( 2814313 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @07:19AM (#52034299)

      This is not intuitively obvious to people who memorized PV = nRT in grade school *HOW*?!?

      Who was this exactly a mystery *from*?

      Because it has nothing to do with the ideal gas law.

      They are talking about the saturation or vaporization curve of water which is a function of pressure and temperature. At 1 atm water boils at 212F. On Mars where the pressure is lower, it boils at a much lower temperature.

      This boiling behavior is not new or unexpected. What is new is the understanding about how this vaporization process can move sediments on Mars. That's the new science.

    • But actually that is not the boiling point equation, which is much more complicated because of different substance properties, but the major factors are still T and P.
      • But actually that is not the boiling point equation, which is much more complicated because of different substance properties, but the major factors are still T and P.

        I am aware of that. As is every halfway decent cook who has made pasta at higher altitudes than sea level, and added salt to raise the boiling point of the water back to 212F/100C so it cooks correctly, since unadulterated water boils at a lower temperate in Denver than it does at sea level.

        And since the baseline on the boiling point equation is water, and we are talking water, and the typical adulterant we use is salt, and we are talking about a brine...

        This is pretty stupidly obvious to anyone who has ev

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If salty brine is part of the boiling water effect on Mars, then after the water disappears, there should be white streaks in the satellite pictures that show where the salt was deposited. The sat sensors should be able to pick up this mineral to confirm that the boiling water consists of a salty brine. I didn't see any white streaks to indicate the path of the water in the picture with the residual being the salt.

    • The salts in question are perchlorates, not NaCl, so they may not have the white colour expected of NaCl crystals. In addition to the colour of the crystals, other contaminants like fine dust, trace iron salts (of which there might be a great deal if not the actual perchlorate salt) and other chemicals might serve to discolour the new crystals even further.

  • Those pictures are really amazing. You can see the channels grow in the sand as the snow melts off the mountains.
  • Somewhere about 2003 people took attention on these gullies. To many then it became clear that water still FLOWS in Mars. Its origin is clearly linked to certain horizons where pockets or small underground lakes can survive. While it is not clear how they survive there, two things are pretty well known:

    1. Regionally these pockets are frequently linked to a few horizons so they come mostly from one and the same levels above local ground.
    2. Most of them have a clear feature of bursting, nearly "exploding". Th

  • We know from experiments here on Earth that if you put water into a low pressure / near vacuum environment that it will boil off. No $hit temperature isn't a factor when the environment is so remarkably light on any sort of air pressure.

    This sounds like a bunch of researchers made up some convincing grant to pay their bills for a few months already answering a question we could have easily extrapolated from observable phenomena here on this planet.

1: No code table for op: ++post

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