On a collaborative study, scientists from the University of Pennsylvania and the Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME), observed that the shape and mass of certain pebbles on Mars points out that they rolled dozens of miles down a river for a long period. The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.

NASA’s Curiosity rover found the Martian stones in close proximity of its landing point at the Gale Crater back in 2013. In previous analysis, scientists claimed that these pebbles were similar to those usually found in rivers systems on Earth. These rocks become rounded as they roll, slide and hop down riverbeds and hit other rocks, Tech Times explained.

The researchers have faith that this new study provides evidence that ancient waterways on the red planet were stable and not just feeble streams that lived only for a short period. This study could help NASA scientist to remodel the environment of ancient Mars, and figure out the planet’s former potential to produce living organisms.

Wonderland Trail across the Nisqually River near Cougar Rock, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington State, U.S. Credit: Joe Mabel/Wikipedia

“We believe liquid water is a principal ingredient for life. Knowing whether pebbles in a river moved one kilometer or 100 kilometers (around 62 miles) could tell us how stable water was on the surface of ancient Mars.” Douglas Jerolmack, a Pennsylvania geophysicist and co-author of the study stated, as The Christian Science Monitor reported.

Analyzing Martian Stones

In order to evaluate the pebbles, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania developed a mathematical model that let them determine how rocks become rounder and smoother as bits of them chip off because of erosion. The amount of mass each rock lost due to erosion was also evaluated.

“An object’s shape can itself tell you a lot. If you go to the beach, natural history is written underneath your feet. We started to understand that there is a code that you can read to begin to understand that history.” study co-author Gábor Domokos, an applied mathematician at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, said in a statement released by Penn’s News

In order to test their model, researchers rolled fragments of limestone in a drum and recorded the changes in mass and shape. The found that the pattern of changes observed in the rocks was very similar to their model.

In further evaluation, the scientists team traveled to a mountain located in Puerto Rico, in order to analyze the local rocks. They stated that they observed large and angular rock formations that seemed to collapse from the headwater walls of a river. Later, they proceeded with the evaluation of the rocks found downstream, and once again, they noticed that the pattern of changes resembled their model.

“Considering the reduced gravity on Mars, which is around 40 percent less compared to Earth’s own gravity, the team found that the rounded stones had traveled an estimated 50 kilometers, or 30 miles, from the their place of origin, which is believed to be the Gale Crater’s northern rim.” Tech Times reported.

Source: Penn News