Susan Conway – “Martian Gulleys”

Wednesday 7th October 2009

Planetary science came to Papworth in the form of a talk by Open University researcher Susan Conway. She has been studying the mysterious gullies that were revealed in high resolution images by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft.

These surface features support the idea that water has been present on Mars, but exactly how these features have formed in the distant past of the red planet is unknown. To try and find out, she has looked closer to home at similar geological features on Earth, in Iceland, England and elsewhere. Using modelling techniques, she showed that at least some of the Martian gullies were probably formed by movement of sediment down slopes in a similar way to that found in Iceland. She has successfully reproduced these phenomena in a sophisticated sandpit enclosed in a vacuum chamber and chilled with liquid nitrogen. This is apparently the first time this has been tried in the laboratory and is helping to answer the question of whether surface water (in the form of ice) was present when the Martian gullies were formed. Water of course means the possibility of life, but that’s another story. The Club is grateful to Susan for her fascinating talk.

No Responses to “Susan Conway – “Martian Gulleys””

By submitting a comment here you grant Papworth Astronomy Club a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate comments will be removed at admin's discretion.