Evidence of ancient ocean found on Mars: Study
The possibility of life on Mars has long caught the imagination of us Earthlings. So far, the evidence did not give much reason to hope. Even the proof of the presence of an ocean on Mars’ surface had been contentious. However, a new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets has changed that. The study, which used a set of topography maps and the sedimentary record on Mars, has found the strongest ever evidence of a vast water body on the planet.
The team of researchers, led by Benjamin Cardenas, assistant professor of geosciences at Penn State, charted the geological history of Mars using by observing the layers of sediment deposited over time. This is known as Stratigraphy. Stratigraphy work on the principle that water transports sediment, and it is possible to measure the changes that took place over the years by understanding how sediment piles up. Cardenas’ team used software developed by the US Geological Survey to map data from NASA and the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter.
Through an analysis of topographic maps of Mars, the researchers found compelling evidence of a roughly 3.5-billion-year-old shoreline, characterised by sedimentary pileup that is at least 900 metres thick. This sedimentary accumulation spans several thousand square kilometres. It is proof that a massive ocean existed on the red planet, and its water made carried sediments that left lasting marks on Mars’ surface.
Cardenas, according to a press release from Penn State University, said that with this evidence, an immediate inference would be that “the existence of an ocean of this size means a higher potential for life." The professor also stated that the findings suggest that “there had to have been a period when it [Mars] was warm enough and the atmosphere was thick enough to support this much liquid water at one time."
The findings have important implications for research regarding extra-terrestrial life. If there was an ocean that could have had tides, it would be in this region, Aeolis Dorsa. Similar to the Earth, the ocean here would have been the kind of place where ancient Martian life might have begun.