NASA’s mars rover, Curiosity, has helped us to see that Mars once held an abundance of liquid water that streamed across it’s surface. The evidence for large oceans has been scarce up until now. Caltech scientists have been studying the surface of Mars using high-resolution orbital data and have found what may be the evidence of a river that has been dried up for many years. This river delta shows that it flowed into a very large body, such as an ocean, of water, in its days of glory.
The ‘Aeolis Riviera’ is the most promising evidence to date of a coastline on a Martian planet (news.discover.com).
Officially known as the Aeolis Dorsa, the huge plain is located about 1, 000 kilometers east from Curiosity’s current roving location. A Caltech science team discovered it as they looked at the observations from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance orbiter’s High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HI RISE) camera. The team identified what could be the basin of a primordial ocean on Mars. The river delta leads the team to a massive ‘depression’ in the surface, i.e. the possible discovery of an ancient alien ocean.
In a news release, Mike Lamb, assistant professor of geology at Caltech and one of the researchers, said scientists have been lead to hypothesize that these northern Mars lowlands are a dried-up ocean floor, yet no one has found the necessary scientific evidence just yet. Their research has been published in the Journal of Scientific Research.
The new findings could lead to several possibilities, each shaking up our present conception of Mars and its environment: past and present.
The bulk of the northern hemispheres’ landmass is at a lower altitude then the southern hemisphere, allowing scientists the possibility that a massive ocean once spanned the mass of Mar’s northern hemisphere. It makes perfect sense that large amounts of evidence should be found in this area, however the eons of time that have passed surpass the lifespan of our current rovers. It seems that the obvious evidence has faded, and the landscape has readjusted. However, the identification of these ancient oceans is not an impossible feat and scientists are optimistic of what could be discovered.
“This is probably one of the most convincing pieces of evidence of a delta in an unconfined region — and a delta points to the existence of a large body of water in the northern hemisphere of Mars,” said Roman DiBiase, lead author of the paper and Caltech postdoctoral scientist.
This ocean remains just a possibility, with scientists saying that upon further investigation, the body of water could have been flowing in the opposite direction of the ‘ocean’.
More research is admittedly needed yet as it stands now the ocean may have encompassed the expanse of the 100,00 square kilometer Aeolis Dorsa.
NASA’s Curiosity rover has been the eyes of the world to see Mars in a most revealing way over the past year. The water history of the planet has just begun to be unveiled, and Curiosity has been in a comparatively small area compared to the Red Planet’s large surface. The Curiosity rover is not alone in its quest, as the high-resolution image capturing has clearly proven.
With this recent research just peaking under the surface of what could be an in-depth mission into the river delta, and then beyond, could reveal some fascinating facts about this increasingly familiar planet.