Saturday, January 30, 2016

Action Items and Experiments

Action Items

  1.  More investigation of picture that we think shows cornices on Mars and other HighRise pictures.     

Experiments to find others to do or do ourselves

 1) Test if Martian wind can blow Martian frost

  Question is if Martian frost is light and fluffy enough to be blown by the thin Martian atmosphere.
Trying to find someone with a Mars simulation chamber to try this but may be able to do some ourselves.   Could have a tinny balloon and way to pop it.  Could have a nozzel to direct the expanding air.  By the time it got to the near vacuum it could be going fast.   Also think of using a CO2 cartridge type toy gun which is designed to release a small burst of CO2.  With nozzel this could be made into a wind.

Could also test with simulated Martian dust to see if the dust could push the frost.

We have a valve on our vacuum chamber.  When we open this is make a wind in the near vacuum.  We can show this does blow things like bits of paper towel around but have not shown it blowing snow.  We plan to do better tests but would really like to find someone who could simulate Martian snow and wind.

2) Test if avalanche can dampen soil in Martian conditions

It seems the paths on Mars are from some H2O getting in the soil.  If an avalanche is causing this then we need for a bunch of frost/ice/snow to be able to leave some H2O in Martian soil.   Since liquid water is not stable on Mars this is an issue.  So there is possible reason for experiment on this issue.

There seems to be some type of salt and salt can raise the melting point of ice and make liquid water stable on Mars.   We have some Iron Sulfate.  This can chemically combine with water and so take a long time to release the water.  This would fit with the paths lasting a long time.  

When an ice skater moves over the ice the high pressure under the skates temporarily melts some ice.  So it is also possible that the weight/force of the frost/ice/snow on Mars during the avalanche would be enough to temporarily melt it and let some water combine with the soil.

One Martian lander had dust and frost make drops of liquid water on its legs.  

It seems plausible that water could get into the soil from an avalanche passing over, but experiment showing this would be good.

We have done some experiments and can show ice getting a sample soil wet in a near vacuum.  So this part seems very plausible.

3) Are wind directions on Mars right for making cornices on the cliff faces of RSL locations?   

4) Are weather conditions right for snow at night and avalanches during the day when RSLs are active?

Experiments that no longer seem needed but might be fun anyway

1) Test if snow can make an avalanche in Martian atmosphere 

     The question is if we warm up some snow in near vacuum will it get soft and make an avalanche or just sublimate away.

    Want it just holding on to a steep slope and then hope it comes lose when warmed.  Might put a heavy weight on top to give bottom of snow some pressure to melt/slide first.  Might put whole thing in  freezer and then after showing it is stable turn on a warm light.   Might do it at room temperature with a weight and  warm light.   Maybe some salt under the snow.  Probably more than one experiment.  Still thinking what to do.  

    Could also test with dirty snow.  If  Martian dust is mixed with snow it might get soft before sublimating.

    On further Googling.  Note that Iron loses strength well before it melts and ice does this also.  Ice can go from able to hold 100 Kg per cm^2 to just 10 Kg.   Could test it this way, like how strong some ice is as we get closer and closer to the melting point.  However, it now seems obvious that under the right conditions warming snow can make it go from stable to avalanche.  On Earth warming of snow increases the risk of avalanche.   Not clear there is any point to experimentation on this topic. 

Experiments with hydrated salts

1) I think that something like Iron Sulphate is chemically combining with the water so that it takes a long time to "dry out".   It would be fun to do experiments with this but not sure about keeping the near vacuum for such a long time needed.   I doubt our vacuum pump would last anywhere near long enough.

Interesting Evidence

Trying to collect interesting evidence that could support or refute our theory of RSLs other other theories of RSLs.

Evidence Probably Supporting Cornice Avalanches:

1)   Paths in RSLs can cross.  This works for a cornice avalanche but not for water.
2)   Fixed width paths make sense for snow/ice but not for water.
3)   Steep slopes are needed for avalanches but not for water.  RSLs only happen on steep slopes.
4)   Cornices form near the crests of hills/mountains while other theories could have
       paths start anywhere.  Evidence supports cornice theory.
5)   Looks like white cornices in some locations that go away at other times.
6)   Winds on Mars can be 60 MPH, so even at 1% pressure of Earth there is some force.

7)   There is H2O frost on Mars.

8)   In this paper it says:
RSL fans in Valles Marineris transiently darken during or just after periods of high dust opacity [3], perhaps due to stability of deliquesced liquids into the afternoons when MRO observes. 
     It could be high winds needed to make dust also make bigger cornices.   Or it could be that dust in the air blocks enough sun that cornices build up bigger before melting.

9)  The RSL slopes show lots of erosion as paths are cut into rock and there are large debris fields.
      It would not seem that any fixed amount of ice or salt would be up to the job.  Something like
      cornice avalanches that could go on for millions of years could do it.

10)  Picture of an avalanche on Mars though probably started by CO2 frost and not H2O frost.

11)  Seems RSL more active after big dust storm.    " RSL were apparently more extensive in Mars year 28 (ref. 3 and Supplementary Table 1), after a planet-encircling dust storm started near Ls = 268◦ . To some degree this may be an increase only in the visibility of active RSL, because they have greater contrast with the background when they disturb a bright, fresh coating of dust deposited by the storms. However, RSL growth also continued longer (into early Mars year 29) in the southern middle latitudes9 ."      Recurring slope lineae in equatorial regionsof Mars

12) There is snow on Mars!  (even though I had been told there is not).
       Here we report on experimental evidence that clouds and precipitation play a role in the exchange of water between the atmosphere and ground on Mars. [...]

The Phoenix LIDAR observations have demonstrated that water-ice crystals grow large enough to precipitate through the atmosphere of Mars. In the early morning hours, the clouds formed at ground level and at heights around 4 km because these were the coldest parts of the PBL.  [...]
Eventually the ice clouds would have persisted within the PBL throughout the daytime, and water ice would have remained deposited on the ground. As the depth of the PBL decreased in late summer, this local process would contribute to the seasonal decrease in atmospheric water vapor (1). 
           In the early morning hours on sol 109, the LIDAR observed clouds and           precipitation that extended all the way to the ground (Fig. 2B).
      If there is snow, then it could naturally collect just past the crests of hills making cornices as it falls.   If it were frost there is some question of "could the wind on Mars lift the frost into the air" but with snow, it is already in the air so there is one less potential problem with our cornice theory.

13)  When the ice clouds seem to get snow to the ground is late summer nights:
            "The water-ice clouds were detected at the top of the PBL and near the ground each night in late summer after the air temperature started decreasing."
       And from this, the RSLs are active late summer:


       I think we have our snow just when the Snow Cornices on Mars theory needs it.  :-)

Interesting stuff on RSLs in general

1) "The absorptions observed in CRISM images of Palikir are too narrow to be explained by liquid water. Instead, they may be consistent with hydrated salts (Fig. 1). The rapid change in hydration state of the minerals imply that at the times and places where RSL form, either the hydration state of the minerals is being increased by the presence of RSL, or hydrated minerals are deposited by RSL and later desiccated. A linear spectral mixture of Martian soil with magnesium perchlorate, chlorate and chloride provides the closest match."   Spectral evidence for hydrated salts in recurringslope lineae on Mars

2) Animated GIFs of RLS from

Evidence Supporting Flowing Saltwater

1)  Drops of water formed on Pheonix landers legs.

Other Points to Ponder:

1)  Frost forming on low gravity from thin atmosphere could be extra light and fluffy and easier to blow than frost on Earth.
2)  Wind blown dust might push frost.
3)  Other features on Mars are carved from CO2 ice.  Wonder if the CO2 frost was also collected into cornices by the wind.
4) If there are ice clouds near mountain tops it seems that sometimes this ice must land on the ground.  As it lands it might do so in low wind side of mountain top, making a cornice.

Cornice Avalanches on Mars

Our theory for RSLs on Mars is that wind on blows H2O frost into cornices near crests of mountains and these then start to melt and make avalanches.

I first wrote a Facebook note on this idea.

Then my son Teryn made a youtube video on the idea.  Note that "snow" should be replaced with  "frost".

Then I posted a question on Quora, Is there any evidence contradicting the Cornice Avalanches on Mars theory?     They doubted that the picture showing white things on Mars is in RSL area and they doubted that wind on Mars could blow frost on Mars.   I think the first is correct but will double check.  The second could be addressed with an experiment on Earth in a Mars simulation chamber.  I am looking for someone with a chamber that could do it.  Please comment if you have leads to someone who could do this experiment.

Picture of what I think shows Cornices on Mars:

Other times of the year this same spot does not have the white things.   This video shows this area and you can see the white parts come and go.  They are looking at the tracks and saying landslides and boulders are rolling down due to Earthquakes.   I think Cornice Avalanches are better explanation.  You can see white coming and going near the crests in the GIF below which wikipedia says is on Newton Crater.

  I believe the video says this area is Arsia Mons.  This is warm enough area for RSLs.   The Wikipedia page on Arsia Mons makes it sound like a spot with Cornice Avalanches:

Recent work provides evidence for glaciers on Arsia Mons at both high[16] and low elevations .[10] A series of parallel ridges resemble moraines dropped by glaciers. Another section looks as if ice melted under the ground and formed a knobby terrain. The lower part has lobes and seems to be flowing downhill. This lobed feature may still contain an ice core that is covered with a thin layer of rocks to keep the ice from sublimating.[17]
But another video showing the same place says Newton Crater.  It says the temperatures indicate the volatile involved is water.   It is too warm for CO2 ice here.

On Feb 7, 2016 I posted on The Science Forum but got no feedback so far.

On Feb 10, 2016 I posted on in their Change My View section and got some comments.

On Feb 11, 2016 I posted in the Against the Mainstream forum on  Got some comments.

In the above RSL picture there seem to be some white parts that could be cornices.  Also, note the extent of the erosion.  This has been going on for a long time.   It is not from some finite source of ice or finite source of salt absorbing moisture from the air.  Cornice avalanches going on for millions of years makes more sense.