Tuesday, May 1, 2012

SPIRALS ON MARTIAN SURFACE PROOF OF ALIEN...Nah, just kidding. They're Giant Lava Coils

 Image Credit: NASA

No, the corkscrew patterns you see in the image above, taken by NASA's HIRISE spacecraft, are not evidence of an ancient alien civilization on Mars. Nor has anyone (that I know of anyway) suggested they were. I just thought I'd try and beat the conspiracy guys to the punch for once. Though I still wouldn't bet against them making their way onto the next season of Ancient Astronauts.

Instead, the shapes you see are actually giant lava coils, ranging in size from 16- 98 feet (5 - 30 meters) across, seen here for the first time on the Martian surface, in a region called  the Athabasca Valles .

Like those found on Earth, which tend to be much smaller in size, closer to the one to two foot range. The giant coils in the image were formed as opposing currents of molten material met and twisted against one another. That molten material would have then cooled and hardened, as molten materials are want to do, leaving behind the formations in question.

Because we understand how these features are formed on Earth, the hope now, is that future computer models might help to determine the compositions of the Lava flows which formed them on Mars. And, in turn, provide us a better understanding of the composition of the Martian crust and mantle.

Oddly enough, this isnt the first time Martian lava flows made the news last month. As it can also apparently draw elephant heads. Not really, it's pareidolia.


No, seriously, it is.


VIA: Wired Science and Space.com

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