Ancient oceans on Mars may be older and less deep than thought

The beginning of the Mars ocean known as Arabia (on the left in the blue) would have looked much like this, when it is formed on the Red Planet 4 billion years ago, when the planet is smaller Deuteronilus ocean was 3.6 billion years old. The water is now gone, possibly frozen, underground, or partial loss of space.

(Robert Citron, images, UC Berkeley)

The emergence of the largest volcanoes in the solar system may have led Mars to possess oceans hundreds of millions of years earlier than thought, a new study found.

Although Mars is now cold and dry, there are a lot of evidence that the ocean once covered a large part of the Red Planet’s surface. However, there are scientists who fiercely debate this idea, with the argument that there are plenty of signs against Mars once seas.

For example, previous research found signs of ancient coastlines along the northern plains of Mars for thousands of miles. However, skeptics point out that the coasts are in general trace is usually a constant sea level surface. In contrast to this, Mars features are very irregular, “varying in height by up to several kilometers,” study lead author Robert Citron, a planetary scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, told [The Search for Water on Mars Photos]

Earlier research suggested that the variations in these shores would have occurred after the formation of Tharsis, a region of 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers wide, which is in the possession of the largest volcanoes in the solar system. The creation of a “volcanic province” with the mass of Tharsis could have shifted the axis on which Mars spins, potentially explaining coastline height variations.

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However, for Tarshish to change Mars’ pole of rotation, this volcanic region would have formed far from the equator. In contrast, before the work to find the one that is formed in the vicinity of the equator.

Now, researchers suggest that Tharsis may help explain the irregular coasts of Mars as the oceans on the Red Planet existed before and/or during the time that Tarshish was 3.7 billion years ago, instead of afterwards, once it is adopted. This new model suggests that the oceans on Mars formed hundreds of millions of years earlier than previously thought.

The scientists modeled what previous research suggested was the first ocean of Mars, called Arabia, as well as a later ocean, the so-called Deuteronilus. They next calculated the effects of the rise of Tharsis on these oceans.

The scientists found that, as Arabia began with the formation of the earth and Mars at least 4 billion years ago was, perhaps temporarily, for as much as the first 20 percent of the growth of Tharsis, with the volcanic province might have distorted Arabia coastline in the time. Also the irregularities seen in the coastline of Deuteronilus could be explained if it formed approximately 3.6 billion years ago, during the last 17 percent of Tarshish’ growth.

“Huge distortion by Tharsis could explain why these coasts deviations from a constant height,” Citron said.

In addition, these findings suggested that the oceans on ancient Mars were smaller than previously thought. If the seas are filled for the Tharsis was fully formed and thus had not distorted the Red Planet’s crust too much yet — they would have kept about half the water of previous estimates, the researchers determined.

The scientists also suggested that the volcanic eruptions that created Tharsis is also generated channels that allowed water to fill the northern plains. This would be for the valley networks seen on Mars.

Tarshish probably spewed gases into the atmosphere that a warming of the earth or the greenhouse effect, said study senior author Michael Manga, of the university of Berkeley. This can be enabled liquid water to exist on the Martian surface, he added.

To further test these findings, more precise mapping and dating of Tarshish and these old shores is needed, Lemon said. NASA’s next Mars lander, Insight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport), which is scheduled for launch in May, a seismometer on the surface of the probe the Red Planet’s interior.

“It would be able to detect the presence of subsurface frozen water, that would be a remnant of a past ocean,” Citron said.

The scientists detailed their findings online March 19 in the journal Nature.

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