Ancient Ocean May Have Covered 1/3 of Mars

BOULDER, Colo., June 14 (UPI) — A NASA-funded study suggests a vast ocean likely covered one-third of the surface of Mars about 3.5 billion years ago.

University of Colorado at Boulder scientists said their study is the first to combine an analysis of water-related features, including scores of delta deposits and thousands of river valleys, to test for the occurrence of an ocean sustained by a global hydrosphere on early Mars.

The researchers said their study provides further support for the theory of a sustained sea on the Red Planet during the Noachian era more than 3 billion years ago.

The study was led by Assistant Professor Brian Hynek and researcher Gaetano Di Achille, both affiliated with the university’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.

They said more than half of the 52 river delta deposits they and their team identified in the new study — each of which was fed by numerous river valleys — likely marked the boundaries of the proposed ocean, since all were at about the same elevation.

Twenty-nine of the 52 deltas were connected either to the ancient Mars ocean or to the groundwater table of the ocean and to several large, adjacent lakes, Di Achille said.

The research is reported in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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