New maps reveal strong evidence of an ancient ocean on Mars

Topographic maps reveal strong evidence of an ancient ocean on Mars. Photo: Christogger Engstrom//Unsplash


For years, scientists believed that an ocean once existed on Mars. It is assumed that during its geological history, a third of the surface of Mars was covered with a liquid ocean. A study conducted in January 2022 used 3D climate simulations of the planet’s former atmosphere to gain insight. The results suggest that a liquid ocean did indeed exist in the northern lowland basin of the Red Planet around three billion years ago.

In support of the January 2022 study, new topographic maps have recently been released which provide the strongest case yet of an ancient ocean on Mars. The maps provide strong evidence that the planet has already experienced sea level rise that would result in a prolonged hot and humid climate unlike its current frozen landscape.

“What immediately comes to mind as one of the most important points here is that the existence of an ocean of this size means a higher potential for life,” said Benjamin Cardenas, assistant professor of Geosciences at Penn State and lead author of the study. Physical Organization. “It also tells us about the ancient climate and its evolution. Based on these findings, we know that there must have been a time when it was warm enough and the atmosphere was thick enough to support so much liquid water at once.

According to Cardenas, topographic data reveals definitive evidence of a roughly 3.5 billion-year-old shoreline made up of 900 meters of sediment. The research team used state-of-the-art software to map data from NASA and the Mars Orbiter laser altimeter. They found 6,500 meters of river ridges and grouped them into 20 groups to better understand what Mars once looked like. What is now known as Aeolis Dorsa contained the densest collection of river ridges on all of Mars.

“The rocks of Aeolis Dorsa capture fascinating information about the state of the ocean,” Cardenas said. “It was dynamic. The sea level has risen considerably. Rocks were being deposited along its basins at a rapid rate. There were a lot of changes happening here. One of the primary goals of Mars Curiosity rover missions is to search for signs of life. He has always looked for water, traces of habitable life. It’s the biggest to date. It is a giant body of water, fed by sediments from the highlands, presumably carrying nutrients. If there had been tides on ancient Mars, they would have been here, gently bringing in and leaving water. This is exactly the type of place where ancient Martian life could have evolved.

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