Mysterious lines on the surface of Mars could be caused by dry ice.

In 2002, scientists learned of miles-long lines that extend across the surface of Mars. This phenomenon intrigued the researchers mainly because the lines slid down the slopes and ended in ditches. This is different from Earth, where marks like this usually end in an accumulation of rubble.

To try to find out why these lines happen on Mars, scientists analyzed images collected by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spacecraft. They then conducted tests on dunes in Utah and California, in the United States, with blocks of various materials. The ice and wood bricks, for example, slid down a short path and came to a sudden halt. However, the dry ice blocks surprised everyone, sliding across the dune and stopping only because some bushes interrupted their descent.

In addition, dry ice, when heated, releases gases that act against soil sand. This creates a kind of airbag, which causes the dry ice block to “float” and to have less friction with the ground. When it is stationary in the same place, the gases released by this material excavate the soil as the ice disappears. This creates a structure very similar to the moats at the end of the lines photographed by MRO.

If people on Earth are already enjoying sports such as sandboarding, sliding with a wooden board through the sand dunes, imagine what the holidays will be like in the future at the Red Planet holiday seasons.