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More Evidence of Mars’ Watery Past

The transition between Acidalia Planitia and Tempe Terra from the Mars Express High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC). Credit ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

ESA’s Mars Express orbiter has sent back images revealing terrain that seems to have been sculpted by flowing water, lending further support to the hypothesis that Mars had liquid water on its surface at some point.

The region seen above in a HRSC image is along the border of the Acidalia Planitia region, a vast, dark swath of Mars’ northern hemisphere so large that it’s visible from Earth.

In 1877 the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli named the region after a mythical fountain, where the three Graces of Greek mythology were said to have bathed.

Although there may not be any fountains or ancient Immortals within Acidalia Planitia, there may have been water — enough to carve serpentine channels and steep scallops along the edges of wide valleys, much in the same way that the Grand Canyon was carved by the Colorado River.

In the HRSC image some of the etched valleys extend outwards from craters, implying that they were created by water emptying out from within the craters. In addition, sediments present within older craters indicate that they were once filled with water, likely for an extended time.

Acidalia Planitia in a broader context. (NASA MGS MOLA Science Team)

With images like these, so reminiscent of similar features found here on Earth, it’s hard to discount that Mars once had liquid water upon its surface; perhaps some of it still remains today in pockets beneath the ground!

Read more on the ESA site here.

About 

A graphic designer in Rhode Island, Jason writes about space exploration on his blog Lights In The Dark, Discovery News, and, of course, here on Universe Today. Ad astra!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • squidgeny May 9, 2012, 9:17 AM

    lending further support to the hypothesis that Mars had liquid water on its surface at some point.

    At this point it seems like the question is no longer of whether there was liquid water on Mars, but of how much there was.

    Is there really still any doubt in the scientific community any more? I know there have been a couple of theories of how certain local formations might have occurred waterlessly, but none that I know of that rebut the idea of Mars once being a wet planet.

  • RemyVTR15 May 9, 2012, 12:55 PM

    In my opinion, I would explore any and every option in order to insure and be a part of the colonization of the Red planet. It would be the most exciting, the scariest and the first true Pioneering effort since taming the West… We’ll look at the Apollo mission and the Mars Rover expeditions as we revere Columbus Day and the Lewis and Clark adventures.
    We used to have a 2 fold enticement in space adventurism. One was military and that was offset by a public civilian enterprise. Each kid could dream (and did) of being the next Neil Armstrong. Its hard to believe that NASA’s true heyday last a mere 10 years.
    While being a massive supporter of the military, I can’t help but be saddened that we’ve squandered that innate American drive to explore because of the reality of $$$.
    Mars is so tantalizingly close. It is a close match to our own sphere, and yet so frustratingly different.
    But the science of space colonization today does not hold up to the rigors of the task. Bone density weakens, muscles atrophy, 9 month trips, asteroid and space junk collision risks, it all adds up to huge obstacles that will cost far more than we have to give. And especially the out cry that would come with any failed or catastrophic trip costing lives and precious $$$ that would “be better served to serve our people here.”

    Machines/Robots will further colonize the planets, doing as Viking 1 & 2 do even 40 years out bound on their missions… Being our eyes, ears, and fingers… doing as we ask, as we sit home, hungrily trying to understand the messages and data sent back over the distant miles separating the explorer and the wannabe. Our minds looking only at the data and not experiencing the event first hand.
    And here we are…Americans dependent on Russians to get to space. And paying them for the privilege.

  • Alanator May 9, 2012, 9:44 PM

    I look at this and see a resemblance to the east coast of U.S. Syntinskaya crater as N.Y. and you can imagine the rest! Pretty cool! 5km. deep oceans at one time???

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