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Analysis of “Fractured Lavas Suggest Floods on Mars”

The article, “Fractured Lavas Suggest Floods on Mars,” which was written by James Skinner of the U. S. Geological Survey and was published last February 27, 2009 in The University of Arizona News, basically reported that cracks on lavas in Mars indicated that there was flooding in the planet. Moreover, according to the article, these fractures found on the red planet, which are also known as columnar joints, were the first ones discovered on a planet aside from Earth. Moses Milazzo, one of the geophysicists of the U. S.

Geological Survey Astrogeology Team in Flagstaff and a member of High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, explained that these columnar joints are formed when lava is cooled and shrinks or contracts. In addition, based on the article, Milazzo, who was also one of the lead authors on a paper that expounded the said discovery, also said that the physical characteristics of the column-shaped fractures on lava can provide scientists and researchers with a better understanding of the role of water in Mars’ geologic processes.

He added that they used a HiRISE device to observe the columnar joints, which were 30 meters tall and one meter in diameter or 100 feet high and 3 feet wide, found in an impact crater’s slanted inner walls. Furthermore, according to the article, the said impact crater is situated in a region which has a history of broad volcanic activity. Milazzo theorized that these columnar joints may have formed when the lava flows were immediately cooled by the liquid water in the form of floods, which may have lasted from several months to years.

Moreover, he also likened the columnar joints to the rocks found in the Colorado Plateau, which were also formed when large amounts of water cooled flowing lava. Analysis In general, the article provides another substantial evidence of the presence of water in planet Mars. Over the past years or so, scientists were able to surmise that liquid water cannot exist at the planet’s current temperature, except on the lowest elevations for very short periods (Encyclopedia Britannica. com).

However, water in its ice form is in great abundance in Mars and many scientists believe that its solar pole ice cap, if ever it is melted, can submerge the entire planet under a depth of more or less 11 meters (Encyclopedia Britannica. com). Although the article did not state the basic hydrological and geological features of Mars, it was somehow written on the assumption that these features are already known by its readers. Moreover, the article supports the idea that liquid water once existed in the planet, which is something that scientists, space explorers, and researchers have been trying to prove over the past decade or so.

The article basically used solid evidence to substantiate its claims. These include actual interviews of the resource person and the instruments or devices used on the observation of the red planet. All of these factors more or less make the article highly credible and factual. Moreover, although the article provided relatively small amount of evidence to an old theory, it basically ties up with most the recent discoveries on the planet.

For example, according to the article “Gamma-Ray Evidence Suggests Ancient Mars Had Oceans,” which was published in November 17, 2008, Mars once had oceans that covered one-third of its surface in its earliest stages. The Gamma Ray Spectrometer, one of the devices onboard NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft, analyzed materials such as potassium, thorium, and iron found on a suspected ancient ocean shoreline and on another suspected, inner and younger shoreline (University of Arizona. com.

Based on the findings of the device, concentration of the above mentioned materials were more concentrated on the ancient shoreline which indicates that they may been moved from the highlands to the lowlands by liquid water or more specifically, an ocean (University of Arizona. com). Meaning to say if a large ocean once existed on Mars, then it would also be plausible to believe that floods also existed and formed the columnar joints that mentioned in the article about fractured lava structures mentioned above.

One of the most important pieces of evidence that the article pointed out is its comparison of the columnar joints, which were the fractures on the lava that formed after being cooled by flowing water, to those of the Colorado Plateau here on Earth. This comparison basically made the article more interesting because even ordinary readers can relate to it. However, one notable weakness in the article is that failed to expound or even mention in passing other details or evidences that suggest that Mars has a history of flooding.

For example, according to an article published in 2005, unique structures and land formations that were discovered in the planet further suggest that for a period of time, a large portion of Mars was flooded for a period of time (European Space Agency. com). The article, titled “Ancient floods on Mars: Iani Chaos and Ares Vallis,” showed that a large surface depression called Iani Chaos and also the upper range of the Ares Vallis, which is enormous outflow channel, indicated that there was flooding on Mars and therefore, liquid water also existed.

Meaning to say, although the article is sufficient in form and substance, it still lacked supporting details that would have made it more informative and even educational. By comparison, it could have also made more comparisons to similar geological structures on Earth. Works Cited “Ancient floods on Mars: Iani Chaos and Ares Vallis. ” 2009.

European Space Agency. 9 March 2009 < http://www. esa. int/SPECIALS/Mars_Express/SEMIKO0DU8E_0.html>. “Mars”. 2009. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 9 March 2009 < http://www. britannica. com/EBchecked/topic/366330/Mars>. Skinner, James. “Fractured Lavas Suggest Floods on Mars. ” 27 February 2009. University of Arizona News. 9 March 2009 < http://uanews. org/node/24258>. Stiles, Lori. “Gamma-Ray Evidence Suggests Ancient Mars Had Oceans,” 17 November 2009. University of Arizona News. 9 March 2009 < http://uanews. org/node/22563>.

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