The uncertainty of science: Using Curiosity data a team of scientists are now suggesting that some of the features the rover has seen were created during mega flood within Gale Crater, and this data also requires a rethinking of the present theories of the crater’s geological history.
This case includes the occurrence of giant wave-shaped features in sedimentary layers of Gale crater, often called “megaripples” or antidunes that are about 30-feet high and spaced about 450 feet apart, according to lead author Ezat Heydari, a professor of physics at Jackson State University.
The antidunes are indicative of flowing megafloods at the bottom of Mars’ Gale Crater about 4 billion years ago, which are identical to the features formed by melting ice on Earth about 2 million years ago, Heydari said.
The most likely cause of the Mars flooding was the melting of ice from heat generated by a large impact, which released carbon dioxide and methane from the planet’s frozen reservoirs. The water vapor and release of gases combined to produce a short period of warm and wet conditions on the red planet.
The press release above focuses on the catastrophic floods, but the research paper itself is really much more focused on the need to rethink present hypotheses for explaining the observed geology in Gale Crater. This report notes that they are finding patches of material that could not have been laid down as seen, based on those past theories, and proposes the catastrophic flood event as a possible solution.
In reading the paper however it is evident that even this new hypothesis is based on a limited amount of data, and thus can have holes punched in it as well. This is not to say that the paper is invalid, only that it must be taken with some skepticism. The data being obtained at Gale Crater simply incomplete. Curiosity is following only one path, and has not even left the foothills of Mount Sharp. In order to gain a wider and fuller understanding geologists need to study the entire crater floor, as well as the geology on the mountain.
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