The red planet has forever been a fascinating reality for everyone down on Earth. A big mystery was solved in 2005 when NASA confirmed the presence of water on Mars. A more interesting twist to the tale lies in the recent declaration by the journal Nature Communications on October 27, that small pockets of boiling water "levitate" chunks of Martian dirt.
The team tried recreating the phenomenon in a chamber that mimicked Martian features, having low air pressure, thin sand on a tilted mantle and temperatures set between 40 to 73 degrees.
Well, 73 degrees apart from being just hot, transform liquids to gases on the Martian surface. This phenomenon takes place as Mars has no atmosphere at all and comes with low air pressure, which means water on the Martian surface, boils at 50 degrees.
The team added water and found that in cold surroundings, most of the sand drifted apart when water was poured over it. In warm situations the overflow of water causes only a fraction of sand to move. Most of the sand drifted due to exotic processes such as ballistic ejection, levitation and dry avalanches.
Jan Raack, a planetary scientist at the Open University in the UK, told New Scientist that in the experiment, wet sand pellets were floating over the sediment. The wet sand pellets levitated up to 2 inches in the cabin and is estimated to levitate as far as 6 feet, on Mars.
This experiment will however, be difficult to verify on the Red Planet. The team believes that the sand pellets will not be large enough so as to spot them via images received from spacecrafts orbiting the planet.
Mars rovers, Opportunity and Curiosity have been given strict orders to stay away from surfaces containing water on the planet. Keeping the rovers away from the water contained areas on Mars is of crucial significance as none of the robots were sterilized before they took off from planet Earth. Astrobiologists fear that the robots might contaminate the site. They might also be attacked by chunks of flying sediments, that can be fatal.