Mars brain terrain resembles a human brain

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this view of “mind terrain” on Mars, utilizing its HiRISE digital camera, on August 23, 2013. The looping ridges and pits resemble the floor of a human mind. Need some context on Mars’ floor? See massive picture under. Picture by way of NASA/ JPL-Caltech/ College of Arizona.

Like Earth, Mars is geologically numerous. It has mountains, volcanoes, craters, valleys, historic riverbeds and lakes. However Mars has one thing Earth doesn’t have: what scientists name mind terrain. The ridges and loops on this mid-latitudes landform look rather a lot just like the wrinkled floor of a human mind. In pictures no less than, the terrain has a type of natural really feel to it.

Michelle Starr wrote about this uncommon panorama in ScienceAlert on August 25, 2023. NASA had beforehand posted the unique photos on its HiRISE web site on September 18, 2013.

If you happen to didn’t already know, HiRISE is the digital camera system on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) that takes all these gorgeous photos of Mars from orbit.

Bizarre ‘mind terrain’ on Mars

Mind terrain on Mars is weird-looking. Lengthy parallel strips consisting of many small ridges type loops or whorls. It nearly seems to be like some type of intricate maze. And, sure, it’s harking back to the floor of a human mind. However the scale is totally different. These ridges are about 4 to five meters (13 to 16 ft) tall!

Mind terrain is discovered within the mid-latitude areas of Mars. It’s discovered the place the cratered southern hemisphere highlands meet the smoother northern hemisphere lowlands. There’s rising proof that these lowlands had been as soon as the underside of an unlimited northern ocean.

May that be a clue to how mind terrain types?

Orbital view of Martian land in black and white with large textured plain.
View bigger. | An orbital view of mind terrain on Mars. Picture by way of NASA/ JPL-Caltech/ College of Arizona.

How does it type?

It’s in all probability no coincidence that Martian mind terrain types the place there’s a variety of water ice within the floor. Scientists say there are three fundamental hypothesies about mind terrain. Writing at ScienceAlert, Michelle Starr wrote:

One risk is that the ridges … and furrows are carved out by ice flows by some means.

One other risk is that the formations are the product of water ice beneath the floor. Sublimation of the ice by way of fractures might trigger the bottom above it to break down, leading to pitted, textured terrain.

A 3rd speculation means that the terrain may very well be created equally to stone sorting processes right here on Earth. When the bottom freezes, it expands, heaving and lifting the sediment; when the frost thaws, the loosened sediment falls again, and the totally different stones inside are inclined to fall collectively in response to measurement. Right here on Earth, over repeated freeze-and-thaw cycles, this creates patterns on the bottom.

Wiggly-looking small loop-like landforms compressed together to form brainlike texture.
One other view of Martian mind terrain from HiRISE. Picture by way of NASA/ JPL-Caltech/ College of Arizona.
A brain: Irregular, hemispherical, shiny pink mass with many wriggly small folds on its surface.
Lateral view of a human mind. The floor sample is remarkably much like the “mind terrain” on Mars. Picture by way of John A. Beal/ Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.5).

Mind terrain-like formations on Earth

These are believable formation processes, though there isn’t something on Earth precisely the identical. The closest analogy is one thing referred to as terrestrial mind terrain within the Canadian Arctic. Scientists first recognized it in 2019. The linked paper is from the Seventh Mars Polar Science Convention 2020, hosted by the Universities Area Analysis Affiliation (USRA).

The 2 major hypotheses for its formation are depositional sorting, glacial processes with melting or sublimation and polygonal cracking, or a mixture of the 2. These are much like among the hypotheses recommended for the Martian mind terrain. Because the USRA paper explains:

Two hypotheses for mind terrain formation have been proposed, each of that are periglacial in nature. (1) Frost heave mechanisms much like stone circle sorting processes, and (2) Differential interstitial ice sublimation of LDM [latitude dependent mantle] materials. These hypotheses counsel mind terrain types beneath both strictly moist or dry periglacial processes.

Attention-grabbing patterns happen on a smaller scale on Mars’ floor, too. For instance, scientists reported earlier this month that NASA’s Curiosity rover found intriguing hexagonal shapes within the floor.

On this case, these patterns are historic mud that dried out billions of years in the past. Actually, they appear similar to dried out mud on Earth.

Backside line: So-called “mind terrain” is among the most uncommon geological formations discovered on Mars, harking back to the floor of a human mind. What causes it?

Through ScienceAlert

Through HiRISE

Learn extra: Historic ‘honeycomb’ mud on Mars boosts probabilities for all times


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