Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2003 February 5
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Unusual Gullies and Channels on Mars
Credit: Malin Space Science Systems, MGS, JPL, NASA

Explanation: What could have formed these unusual channels? Inside Newton Basin on Mars, numerous narrow channels run from the top down to the floor. The above picture covers a region spanning about 1500 metres across. These and other gullies have been found on Mars in recent high-resolution pictures taken by the orbiting Mars Global Surveyor robot spacecraft. Similar channels on Earth are formed by flowing water, but on Mars the temperature is normally too cold and the atmosphere too thin to sustain liquid water. Nevertheless, many scientists hypothesize that liquid groundwater can sometimes surface on Mars, erode gullies and channels, and pool at the bottom before freezing and evaporating. If so, life-sustaining ice and water might exist even today below the Martian surface -- water that could potentially support a human mission to Mars. Research into this exciting possibility is sure to continue!

Tomorrow's picture: x-ray galaxy

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
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