Stories tagged water on Mars

Spash!: Martian ocean, Martian ocean. An artist's rendering. Martian ocean.
Spash!: Martian ocean, Martian ocean. An artist's rendering. Martian ocean.Courtesy lttiz
Joining my list of most-pleasing words (ala Donny Darko's "cellar door"), which includes such old favorites as "jasper geode" and "top banana," is the phrase "Martian ocean." And, as it happens, a Martian ocean may have once been a real thing.

Based on the analysis of dozens of the red planet's geographical features, a team of scientists from the University of Colorado at Boulder believe that an ocean may have covered about one-third of Mars' surface, about 3.5 billion years ago. Most of the river delta-like features on Mars, they claim, likely marked the boundaries of the ancient ocean. And although the ocean would have been only about one-tenth the volume of Earth's oceans, the amount of sediment in the deltas suggests that there was once a significant amount of precipitation on Mars, carrying silt through the many river valleys to the ocean.

If the theory is true, Mars would have had a water cycle very similar to Earth's, with "precipitation, runoff, cloud formation, and ice and groundwater accumulation."

And, most importantly, a Martian ocean. Martian ocean. Maaartiiaaan ooocceeaaan. Martian ocean.

Dec
08
2006

Mars erosion: Recent photos of Mars' surface show evidence of recent runoff of water on the Red Planet's surface (Photo from NASA)
Mars erosion: Recent photos of Mars' surface show evidence of recent runoff of water on the Red Planet's surface (Photo from NASA)

There’s growing photo evidence that water occasionally flows on the surface of Mars.

Photos from a NASA Mars orbiter taken over the span of several years show that erosion patterns have changed on portions of the Red Planet. Scientists have known that ice exists on Mars for quite a while, but these latest photographs help point to signs that liquid water occasionally can be found on the planet as well.

That’s especially important in the search for any forms of life on the planet. While past research has concluded that life was possible on the planet’s long past when it was warmer, these new photos help boost the odds that liquid water may exist somewhere on the planet today to help feed life forms.

Satellite photos have long shown gullies on the surface of Mars where water was believed to have flowed millions of years ago. Comparing photos of portions of Mars first photographed in 1999 and 2000 and then reshot in 2004 and 2005, researchers have found gullies in two spots that are part of the second series of photos, but not the first.

“Water seems to have flowed on the surface of today’s Mars,” says Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. “The big question is how does this happen, and does it point to a habitat for life.”

More Mars water: Here's a second image of another water runoff gully on Mars. (Photo from NASA)
More Mars water: Here's a second image of another water runoff gully on Mars. (Photo from NASA)

There are no visible channels or pools of water on Mars. That leads researchers to think that there may be liquid water in underground aquifiers, which occasionally release water to Mars’ surface. Underground temperatures of Mars might be warm enough to keep water in its liquid state.

The new gullies display evidence of water flow similar to what we see on Earth. They are about one-quarter of a mile long and have delta-shaped patterns at their ends, much like what we find at the end of our rivers and streams. Also, flow patterns in the areas around obstacles in the paths of the gullies show similar patterns like those we see here on earth of mud and sediment washing around the obstacle.

By the way, if you want to see more about the surface of Mars, the Science Museum of Minnesota’s 3-D cinema currently is showing the film “Mars,” which has footage taken from the Mars rovers currently scurrying around the planet. Maybe you’ll be able to see some signs of water in the background.