Home Science & Technology Ancient Traces of a Giant Ocean Just Discovered on Mars: ScienceAlert

Ancient Traces of a Giant Ocean Just Discovered on Mars: ScienceAlert

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You will no doubt be familiar with the dry, dusty look Mars what it looks like today – but scientists have found evidence of the existence of a huge ocean on the surface of the Red Planet about 3.5 billion years ago, which probably covered hundreds of thousands of square kilometers.

This evidence comes in the form of distinctive coastline relief identified through numerous satellite images of the Martian surface. If these images are taken at slightly different angles, a relief map can be built.

The researchers were able to map more than 6,500 kilometers (4,039 miles). river hailapparently carved by rivers, demonstrating that they are most likely eroded river deltas or submarine channel belts (channels cut into the sea floor).

The floor of Gale Crater, near a region called Aeolid Dorsa, which researchers believe was once a vast ocean. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

“The big, new thing we did in this work was to think about Mars in terms of its stratigraphy and sedimentary records,” says geoscientist Benjamin Cardenas from Pennsylvania State University.

“On Earth, we map the history of waterways by looking at sediment deposited over time. We call this stratigraphy, the idea that water carries sediment, and you can measure changes on Earth by understanding how sediment accumulates. That’s what we done here – but this is Mars.”

Using data from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter collected in 2007, the team applied analysis of ridge thickness, angle and location to understand the study area: topographic depression known as Aeolis Dorsa regions on Mars.

It seems likely that this part of the planet was undergoing significant changes all those years ago, Cárdenas explains. This is shown by the evidence of a significant rise in sea level and the rapid movement of rocks by rivers and streams. Today, Aeolian Dorsa contains the most concentrated collection of river ridges on Mars.

All this has to do with the search for life on Mars. One of the most fundamental questions scientists face about the Red Planet is whether it ever had conditions hospitable enough for life.

“What immediately comes to mind as one of the most significant points is that the existence of an ocean of this size means a greater potential for life.” says Cardenas.

“It also tells us about the ancient climate and its evolution. Based on these findings, we know that there was a period when it was warm enough and the atmosphere was dense enough to support this amount of liquid water at the same time.”

Researchers do not stop at the Aeolis Dorsa region.

In separate research published in Natural sciencesome of the same researchers, including Cárdenas, applied an acoustic imaging technique used to map the ancient seafloor in the Gulf of Mexico to a model of how water might have eroded the surface of Mars.

There are vast areas of what could be river ridges all over Mars, and the team’s simulations look remarkably similar to the shape of the landscape on the Red Planet, suggesting that there was once a lot of water.

We see each other more and more signs that Mars once had a lot of water, and work is ongoing to find out what this might have led to and where is that water now – although it is not easy to look back after billions of years of time.

“If there were tides on ancient Mars, they would be here, gently moving water in and out.” says Cardenas. “This is exactly where ancient Martian life could have developed.”

The study was published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets and Natural science.

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