A team of European researchers have uncovered evidence that suggests supposed lava flows on the planet Mars were possibly once flows of muddy water.
The red planet is littered with dormant volcanoes with idents of the old lava flows being visible from space.
But the new findings published in the Nature Geoscience journal in May suggests that the remains of some flows reveal that they are actually composed of mud instead of lava.
These muddy flows on the Martian surface are referred to as sedimentary volcanism, which involves liquid mud erupting from Mars’s surface and flowing like lava and then freezing solid again.
“The rapid burial of water-rich sediments after such flooding could have led to sedimentary volcanism, in which mixtures of sediment and water (mud) erupt to the surface,” the journal article stated.
The researchers used a low pressure chamber to conduct experiments investigating mud propagation on Mars by mimicking the planet’s conditions in cold temperatures.
“We found that low viscosity mud under Martian conditions propagates differently from that on Earth, because of a rapid freezing and the formation of an icy crust,” the researchers stated.
“Instead, the experimental mud flows propagate like terrestrial pahoehoe lava flows, with liquid mud spilling from ruptures in the frozen crust, and then refreezing to form a new flow lobe.”
Sedimentary volcanism is common on our home planet in countries such as Azerbaijan, which has several active mud volcanoes, with about 400 of the Earth’s 1000 mud volcanoes in the region, according to the BBC.