≡ Menu

New Mars Maps Show Evidence of Ancient Lakes

Hellas Planitia extends across about 50° in longitude and more than 20° in latitude. From data from the Mars Orbiter LaserAltimeter (MOLA).

Was the expansive Hellas Basin on Mars at one time a giant lake? A new geologic mapping project shows evidence of sedimentary deposits consistent with what would relate to large standing bodies of water. Fine-layered outcrops around the eastern rim of Hellas basin have been interpreted as a series of sedimentary deposits resulting from erosion and transport of highland rim materials into a basin-wide standing body of water. “This mapping makes geologic interpretations consistent with previous studies, and constrains the timing of these putative lakes to the early-middle Noachian period on Mars, between 4.5 and 3.5 billion years ago,” said Dr. Leslie Bleamaster, research scientist at the Planetary Science Institute.

Hellas basin, more than 2,000 km across and 8 km deep, is the largest recognized impact structure on the Martian surface.

Using data from a variety of spacecraft, including the Viking Orbiter, the Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey, the researchers characterized the geologic materials and processes that have shaped the Hellas Planetia region on the southern hemisphere of Mars.

The mapping team searched through high-resolution images and found the eastern part of Hellas Planitia, where the fine-layered floor deposits were discovered, “is unique in nature representing a confluence between sedimentary sources and sinks.”

“Our mapping and evaluation of landforms and materials of the Hellas region from the basin rim to floor provides further insight into Martian climate regimes and into the abundance, distribution, and flux of volatiles through history,” Bleamaster said.

The mapping project reinforces earlier research that initially proposed Hellas-wide lakes citing different evidence in the west, he said. Take a look a the new map along with a explanatory pamphlet.

Source: Planetary Science Institute


Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today's Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT's Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Lawrence B. Crowell June 8, 2010, 7:16 PM

    If life did emerge on early Mars it might have done so in these bodies of water. Maybe as Mars has gotten cold and dry life has continued to evolve and adpat to these conditions. I think Mars is a better candidate for life than Titan.