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China’s Mars rover finds hints of catastrophic floods

China’s Mars rover finds hints of catastrophic floods

By daniele

This has prompted researchers to look at Zhurong, a Chinese rover that has been exploring the Martian surface since May 2021, has discovered evidence of two significant floods that likely shaped the area. The first outcome from Zhurong’s radar imager, which can probe up to 100 metres below the surface, was an analysis that was published in Nature today.

Scientists have been baffled by the past of Zhurong’s landing site, which was on the vast plains of Utopia Planitia in Mars’ northern hemisphere. Some people have hypothesised that the landscape once included water or ice. Sedimentary deposits found in the area, along with geological features like pitted cones, suggest that it was once an ancient ocean or the site of massive floods, according to observations from space. Researchers discovered hydrated minerals in May after analysing infrared photos of the landing site taken by China’s Tianwen-1 Mars orbiter3. These minerals may have formed when groundwater peaked through the rock or ice as it melted.

But it’s also possible that the area was covered in lava, which would have hidden some of these hydrological processes underground. Researchers want to know what happened and whether water or ice could still be hiding beneath the rocks by analysing the radar data. Liu Yang, a planetary scientist at the National Space Science Center in Beijing and a study co-author, says, “We want to know what is going on beneath the surface.”

Zhurong, China’s first rover on Mars, has been investigating Utopia Planitia’s southern region. The ground-penetrating radar on the rover transmits low-frequency radio waves with a better resolution that can travel up to 100 metres underground but only penetrate the surface to a depth of between 3 and 10 metres. The study’s authors examined low-frequency data collected between 25 May and 6 September while Zhurong travelled more than 1,100 metres south of its landing site. Radar signals bounce off subsurface materials, revealing their grain size and electrical charge-holding capacity. Larger objects are typically indicated by stronger signals.

According to Hamran, radar measurements are good at revealing the layering and geometry of subsurface material but less effective at figuring out its composition, including whether the substance is ice or rock. He explains that historians frequently rely on other cues, like pebbles poking out from the surface, to paint a picture of historical events. The authors conclude that there is a possibility that saline ice may have been buried in the area.