Alluvium on Mars

Alluvium on Mars

2.10.2012 - Posted by Misko Ivezich
This week Alluvium was discovered on Mars, no not a rogue fifth office, or an employee who lost their way doing field work, but our namesake - alluvium, which is defined as material deposited by a river, and it was a fitting name for our company when it was founded.

Although there had been previous evidence of water on Mars the discovery of ancient streambeds is the first time that there has been evidence that streams with flowing water transported gravels. The rounded nature and size of the gravels indicates that the sediment was transported in streams at a speed of about 1 m/s over long distances at a depth of somewhere between ankle and hip height.

These stream characteristics bare remarkable resemblances to some of the ones we work on. It got me thinking, what if in millions of years an extraterrestrial mission lands on the now barren and lifeless earth surface. And the little extraterrestrial rover stumbles across one of our ancient riverbeds, perhaps one of the ones we’ve worked on. These pictures would be beamed back to some far away planet as proof that earth once had water and flowing rivers. They will know little from this discovery about the fish that thrived in these rivers, the crops that were nourished by these rivers and the communities that depended upon them.

If the alluvium on Mars could talk what would it say? If these rivers supported Martian life I wonder how they cared for their precious life giving resource? Fittingly, in the week of the discovery of these ancient extraterrestrial streams it is World River Day (Sunday 30th September). A timely reminder how important it is to care for our natural resources upon which our lives depends.

Image comparing the Link outcrop of rocks on Mars (left) with similar rocks seen on Earth (right). Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS and PSI