The Three Poles: Terrestrial Analogues of Mars
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About the Event
Title: The three poles: terrestrial analogue of Mars
Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences, Lucknow, UP, India
The earth offers several places which are aptly qualify for analogue of Mars. The landscape and the geomorphic features make them look as though they are the replicas of our extra-terrestrial neighbourhood. Studies and analysis conducted in these sites are the nearest clue to the geology, geomorphology, life and processes beyond the Earth. Hence analogue site studies are necessary, as they help to understand geological and geomorphological processes (on Earths analogue sites) which can be extrapolated to other planets in order to interpret and validate the data received from orbiters and rovers. There are several analogue sites of Mars on earth. Our barren, cold and arid polar regions namely Antarctica, Arctic and the Third pole host several such sites, which have a great resemblance to the extra-terrestrial correspondent. The Arctic and the Antarctic have been recognised as analogue sites but the Third pole region (especially the Ladakh region of NW India) holds a great fidelity to be an analogue site. Ladakh region is a barren, high altitude, cold, arid desert with a lunar topography. It features some of the best sites to study astrogeology-due to extremely cold, no vegetation, high altitude and desertic environment. The geographical setup, dynamic and active geological setting of the young mountain belt of the Himalaya, and the science capability of the trans Himalayan ranges support the study of astrogeology as well as astrobiology. The geomorphic features and the vast exposures of the sediments in can be helpful in generating data on paleoclimate, climate modelling, tectonics and earth surface processes and help us in the better understanding of the Martian geomorphology; the hot springs, and the sulphur deposits can help us understand the extremophiles in these environment and the lakes and paleolakes can help reconstruct the ecological and climatic processes involved. Several studies on Mars point to, cratered highland of moderate to high relief, isolated knobs and massifs of rugged mountainous materials, extensive tracts of smooth and channelled plains, surface deposits and features like rounded pebbles and cobbles, conglomerates, outflow channel systems, frozen ground, etc., These are suggestive of mass movements, landslides, catastrophic floods, active fluvial processes, erosional and depositional work of the wind, ice and water. All these processes are encountered today in the Ladakh region. Hence planetary exploration in the context of geological and geomorphological research can be clearly understood and well interpreted if these processes on the terrestrial surface of Ladakh (third pole region) can be studied and understood.
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