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Primitive atmosphere and implications for the formation of channels on Mars


THE channels on Mars1,2 suggest that a flowing fluid has been present on the surface of the planet. It seems natural to assume that this fluid was water. The major difficulty, however, is that water freezes in climatic conditions like those now3,4 on Mars. It has been suggested5–7 that primitive Mars had a reducing atmosphere, composed mainly of methane. Such an atmosphere, as we show here, could be polymerised by solar ultraviolet radiation to produce higher hydrocarbons. These compounds are low viscosity liquids at today's temperature on Mars, and could contribute to the formation of channels.

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YUNG, Y., PINTO, J. Primitive atmosphere and implications for the formation of channels on Mars. Nature 273, 730–732 (1978).

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