New research suggests that gullies on Mars evolved when the Red Planet was strongly tilted on its side, causing drastic temperature changes that drove water pouring down slopes to cut out ravines.

gullies found in the southern hemisphere of Mars
A set of gullies found in the southern hemisphere of Mars. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

Now, we will uncover some of the crisp knowledge about the formation of the gullies on the planet Mars, and answers some frequently asked question, too!

A Martian Puzzle: Gullies on Mars Resembling Earth’s Dry Valleys!

In the year 2000, scientists found the first gullies on Mars. These were very similar to the pathways formed on Earth in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica by melting glaciers. As a result, the Martian ravines suggested that water previously flowed on Mars and, maybe, still does at times.

A lead author James Dickson, a planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, told tells us;

“They look very Earth-like, but they’re on Mars, so how could they form there?”

“It’s been a great puzzle that many scientists have worked on.”

Now, if you are wondering about the gullies on Mars being found at higher levels where liquid water is not expected in the current Martian environment, then how is that possible? Let’s find out!

What are Some Water Absent Elevations and the Role of Carbon Dioxide Ice in Gullies on Mars?

The issue with gullies on Mars is that they are mainly found at elevations where liquid water is not predicted in the present Martian environment. The air on Mars is now too cold and thin for liquid water to persist very long, and it is much colder and thinner at higher altitudes than it is at lower elevations, exactly as it is on Earth.

Previous studies claimed that these gullies were produced by carbon dioxide ice that sublimated, or immediately turned into vapor, when Mars had warm spells, forcing rock and debris to slide down slopes. Due to the absence of this condition in natural Earthly phenomena, numerous aspects remain unexplored and shrouded in mystery.

Apart from this, now we will head hover towards a theory suggesting that the gullies on Mars may have evolved in the past when the planet’s environment allowed for tiny quantities of liquid water on its surface. Sound intriguing? YES! it is.

Scientists are Exploring Theories of Past Liquid Water and the Role of Axial Tilt on Mars

Another theory is that these gullies evolved in the past when Mars’ environment was more suited to the survival of tiny quantities of liquid water on the Martian surface. Meltwater from glaciers might have poured down slopes, chiseling out channels, explaining the height of the gullies.

To determine if liquid water could have existed on Mars, scientists looked at how the planet’s axial tilt, or obliquity, has altered through time and the implications of this slanting. The gap in the quantity of sunlight received by various parts of a planet during its year grows as the tilt of its pole rises regarding its orbit around the sun.

As scientists have discovered gullies on Mars, but what could be some potential outcomes or impacts of their formation? We will uncover this in the following part of the blog!

What Would be the Impact of the Formation of Gullies on Mars?

Seasons are caused by the Earth’s axial tilt of around 23.5 degrees. Mars’ obliquity is currently roughly 25 degrees, although it has changed between 15 and 35 degrees over hundreds of thousands of years, causing much more drastic fluctuations in temperature.

Gullies on Mars Formed by Deep Water Carved
The gullies seen here are one of numerous examples on Mars, showing water flowing in the ancient past. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

The researchers looked at how increasing obliquity on Mars would result in more drastic swings between winter and summer and possibly more conducive climes for liquid water. They created a 3D global climate model of Mars to investigate what would happen at 35 degrees obliquity.

The scientists discovered that sublimating carbon dioxide ice in Martian sites where gullies now exist would have greatly densified the Martian atmosphere. Furthermore, surface temperatures will likely exceed the melting threshold of aqueous ice. These events are estimated to have occurred regularly throughout the previous million years, most recently approximately 630,000 years ago.

Beneath we will describe what gullies behold, and how they will affect the surroundings.

Let’s Uncover Some Martian Gully Mysteries:

Furthermore, these gully areas today have a lot of water ice at the surface and most likely had a lot more in the previous million years. According to the researchers, most of this ice may have melted during times of significant axial tilt, carving out gullies in the high-altitude places where they are now visible.

Overall, the scientists suggest that the pattern of gullies found on Mars may be explained by a mix of melting ice, sublimating carbon dioxide, and extreme obliquity.

Dickson said:

“An important implication is that we can now predict that when Mars’ orbit tilts again, it should be able to generate meltwater at these gully locations”

Because life on Earth can be found almost wherever there is water, future studies may wish to focus on similar gullies on Mars to investigate if life once existed and may currently exist on the Red Planet.

Dickson said:

“If you were to look for extant life, these locations would be good targets”


What is the Muddy Puddle Found on Mars?

In 2000, a groundbreaking discovery provided the initial evidence of liquid water on Mars. Researchers asserted that the gullies visible on the planet’s surface could only have been shaped by the flow of water. The presence of debris and mud deposits served as compelling proof of the existence of moving water at some stage in the history of the enigmatic red planet.

How are Gullies Formed on Mars?

Instead of attributing gully formation on Mars to water, researchers suggest that the primary cause is the sublimation of seasonal carbon dioxide frost. Some have proposed a comparable explanation for the ongoing activity in gullies, which seems to occur when periods of active defrosting take place.

What are the small gullies on Mars?

At the smaller scale of Martian channels, gullies represent features that are generally around 10 meters (33 feet) wide and extend for a few hundred meters (yards) in length. Currently, multiple characteristics are grouped as “gullies,” but these features may have diverse origins.