"A Vast Oceanus Borealis May have Once Covered 1/3 of Mars"
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February 17, 2014

"A Vast Oceanus Borealis May have Once Covered 1/3 of Mars"

 

Oceanus_borealis

 

The idea has been hotly debated among scientists for the past 20 years, ever since Viking Orbiter images revealed possible ancient shorelines near the pole. Later findings even suggested that the primordial ocean--dubbed Oceanus Borealis--could have covered a third of the planet.

Today, large fields of boulder-size rocks blanket parts of Mars' northern plains. By pointing to analogue geological features on our Earth, Lorena Moscardelli, a geologist at the University of Texas, Austin,suggests that the boulders were delivered to their current locations by catastrophic underwater landslides--bolstering evidence for an ancient Martian ocean.

The boulders were spotted by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter a while ago. So Moscardelli is not reporting their presence as something new, but rather a new interpretation of the processes behind their origin. The paper was published this month in a journal of the Geological Society of America.

In the past, geoscientists thought of ocean sediments as mostly fine-grained, floating in the water column and settling like a slow "rain" on the sea floor, Moscardelli explained. But we now know it's not the only possible scenario.

"We know that 'submarine landslides' can transport big boulders--sometimes as big as a house--for hundreds of kilometers into the deep-water of the Earth oceans," she said. "Imagine a huge landslide affecting the entire state of Texas, but happening in the ocean."

In her new study, Moscardelli documents several sites where these events have occurred on Earth, such as the Pennsylvanian Jackfork Group of south-central Arkansas; the outcrops of the Guandacol Formation in the Pangazo Basin, Argentina; or in the Santos Basin, offshore Brazil. She even shows that these underwater events can affect huge areas, as with a massive landslide that covered thousands of square kilometers in the Barents Sea, north of Russia, about a million years ago.

Some scientists have suggested that the boulders of Mars's northern plain could be the product of meteorite impacts. But to Moscardelli, that's not a fitting theory.

"That's possible for some of the boulders, especially those found close to craters," she says. "But how do you explain boulder fields that can cover thousands of square kilometers without any impact craters around? The submarine hypothesis provides a feasible alternative."

In the 1980s, Viking spacecraft images revealed two possible ancient shorelines near the pole, much like those found in Earth's coastal regions. But further observations showed the coastlines varied in elevation, undulating like a wave, and thus casting much doubt on the Martian ocean hypothesis. However, later studies eventually showed that the deformation could be simply explained by the movement of Mars' spin axis.

In addition to the boulders of the northern plains, Moscardelli had previously documented other geological features which can form underwater on Earth, including teardrop-shaped islands and polygon-shaped areas.

"There are many hypothesis out there and we still need to learn a whole lot before we can be confident about which one is right or wrong," she said. "I have an informed opinion based on my technical observations, but I am cautious and humble about it because I could be wrong! That said, I think my case is a strong one."

Some of the evidence for terrestrial analogues came from 3-D seismic surveys, a tool traditionally used by the oil and gas industry. So she hopes her approach will encourage more inter-disciplinary research.

"It is amazing to see how little the planetary science and the marine geoscience communities interacts," she said. "If anything, I hope my contributions can help improve that kind of cross-pollination and cooperation."

The Daily Galaxy via NASA's Astrobio.net


Image Credits: ESA, C. Carreau and : NASA (Moscardelli 2014)

Comments

The ocean now resides beneath the surface, there it hosts life. Mars correlates to the idea of Pangaea expect on a planetary scale. I've already proven there is certainly an astronomical cycle of life happening for eons! The evidence is all around us!!!

To cite the idiot above, lol: "Within its “Great Red Spot” an embryonic earth is undergoing formation, once completed it will emerge from the Jovian atmosphere to become Io."

Wow, just wow... He's already proven this. Just visit his website! (only one exclaimation mark)

What shit is he on?

If you believe you have a paradigm shattering theory which confounds all current ideas, why not write it down, submit it for peer review and quietly wait for your Nobel prize. The notion of persistent delusion across generations and disciplines is unbelievable, to me at least. The fact you refer to Christ, whose very existence lacks concrete (read any) evidence, is indicative of a likewise lack of evidence for your claims. I am not belittling your ideas, I simply get the impression they don't arise from proper scientific discourse.


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