20-EPN2-023: Fluidisation of mass flows by metastable volatiles on extraterrestrial bodies
December 9, 2021

20-EPN2-023: Fluidisation of mass flows by metastable volatiles on extraterrestrial bodies

Visit by Lonneke Roelofs, Utrecht University (Netherlands) to TA2.20 Open University Mars Chamber (UK).
Dates of visit: 29 September – 6 October 2021

Abstract: On planetary bodies unlike Earth, landforms may be created that look similar to those found on Earth but are actually produced by disparate and so-far unknown processes. Therefore, extra-terrestrial landforms assumed to be created by liquid water may in fact be formed by process-volatile interactions unknown to Earth. We propose an ambitious set of laboratory simulations to quantify the environmental and physical limits of sediment mass flows triggered by metastable CO2 under reduced atmospheric pressures. The laboratory simulations become possible by a unique synergy where an experimental setup for simulating mass flows developed at Utrecht University is placed in the Mars Chamber at The Open University, to for the first time generate mass flows supported by CO2 in different phases under a range of atmospheric pressures ranging from terrestrial to martian. Advanced measurement devices allow us to measure fluidisation upon triggering, flow dynamics downslope, and deposit morphologies under controlled conditions. This will provide a major step towards solving the long-lasting debate on the possible role of present-day volatiles in martian gully formation and its paleoclimatic implication. Our results will inform future mission-planning, and open up new understanding of slope processes on other planetary bodies.

Read report in the Europlanet Magazine.

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