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Field Trip to Mars

Floods

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Click for larger image of Candor Chasma

Evidence of Great Floods

We have seen evidence of great floods on our field trip. While we are still on Interstate 90 we can learn more about the last Ice Age, Glaciers, Glacial Lake Missoula and the floods.

Could these be lakebeds on Mars? Scientists are still trying to determine if the layers in this image of Candor Chasma on Mars were made by water or the Martian winds. The layered sedimentary rock is now visible because of faulting and erosion. The picture shows a 1.5 km by 2.9 km (0.9 miles by 1.8 miles) area in far southwestern Candor Chasma. There are over 100 beds in this area, and each has about the same thickness (estimated to be about 10 meters (11 yards) thick). Each layer has a relatively smooth upper surface and each is hard enough to form steep cliffs at its margins. Click on image for a detail view.

Layers indicate change. The uniform pattern seen here, beds of similar properties and thickness repeated over a hundred times, suggest that the deposition of materials that made the layers was interrupted at regular or episodic intervals. Patterns like this, when found on Earth, usually indicate the presence of sediment deposited in dynamic, energetic, underwater environments. On Mars, these same patterns could very well indicate that the materials were deposited in a lake or shallow sea. Malin Space Systems/NASA image and source text.

Glaciers, Glacial Lake Missoula and the Floods

Click to learn about Glacial Lake MissoulaDuring the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago, most of Canada and upper US were covered with a thick layer of ice called an ice sheet. Glaciers along the edge of the sheet protruded into Washington, Idaho and Montana making deep troughs along the way. These glaciers blocked major rivers and caused giant floods.
Click here to find out more about glaciers and Glacial Lake Missoula.

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Geology Terms

Here are some basic terms used in the tour. Find more geology terms in the Glossary.

Bar
A mound of gravel and sand deposited by flowing water. Bretz and other geologists identified many large bars in the Channeled Scablands.
Basalt
Volcanic rock caused by partial melting of the Earth's crust.
Channel
The deepest part of a river or bay.
Channeled Scabland
Area in Washington state where huge floods made channels in a large, deep basalt flow. Named by J. Harlan Bretz during the 1920's in various publications. See also Channeled Scablands and Glacial Lake Missoula.
Current Ripple
Mark left on streambed from water current usually less than an inch high and a few inches between the tops (crests) of each ripple. The giant ripples from Lake Missoula floods are as much as 35 feet high and several hundred feet between. See also Ripple Mark.

Kids' Cosmos… Expanding Minds Beyond the Limits of the Universe

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