are small, incised networks of narrow channels and their associated downslope sediment
deposits, found on the planet of Mars
. They are named for their resemblance to terrestrial gullies
. First discovered on images from Mars Global Surveyor
, they occur on steep slopes, especially on the walls of craters. Usually, each gully has a dendritic alcove
at its head, a fan-shaped apron
at its base, and a single thread of incised channel
linking the two, giving the whole gully an hourglass shape. They are estimated to be relatively young because they have few, if any craters. A subclass of gullies is also found cut into the faces of sand dunes, that are themselves considered to be quite young. Linear dune gullies are now considered recurrent seasonnal afeatures.
Most gullies occur 30 degrees poleward in each hemisphere, with greater numbers in the southern hemisphere. Some studies have found that gullies occur on slopes that face all directions; others have found that the greater number of gullies are found on poleward facing slopes, especially from 30° to 44° S. Although thousands have been found, they appear to be restricted to only certain areas of the planet. In the northern hemisphere, they have been found in Arcadia Planitia
, Tempe Terra
, Acidalia Planitia
, and Utopia Planitia
. In the south, high concentrations are found on the northern edge of Argyre basin, in northern Noachis Terra
, and along the walls of the Hellas outflow channels. A recent study examined 54,040 CTX images that covered 85% of the Martian surface found 4861 separate gullied landforms (e.g., individual craters, mounds, valleys, etc.), which totaled tens of thousands of individual gullies. It is estimated that CTX can resolve 95% of gullies.
This article gives a history of the discovery and research on gullies. As research progresses, the cause of Martian gullies has shifted from recent liquid water to pieces of dry ice moving down steep slopes, but research continues. On the basis of their form, aspects, positions, and location amongst and apparent interaction with features thought to be rich in water ice, many researchers think that the processes carving the gullies involve liquid water. When the volumes of the aprons are compared to the rest of the gully, it appears that there is much less volume in the apron; hence, much of the material may have contained water and ice that disappeared. However, this remains a topic of active research. Because the gullies are so young, this would suggest that liquid water has been present on Mars in its very recent geological past, with consequences for the potential habitability of the modern surface.
On July 10, 2014, NASA reported that gullies on the surface of Mars were mostly formed by the seasonal freezing of carbon dioxide
), and not by that of liquid water
as considered earlier. Read more...