Mars, our neighbor, once the dreams of science fiction writers and astronomers, one of which only wrote about the live that could have lived on Mars, and still might; while the other seeks to prove that there might actually have been life on that red planet eons ago.
Part of proving that idea is being able to show that there was water on the surface of Mars, water that would have been the foundation of life, just as it is here on earth.
To help find the facts behind whether there was, or even still is, water on Mars the European Space Agency (ESA) Mars Express space craft which houses the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionsphere Sounding (MARSIS) has detected sediment on the planet, the type of sediment that you would find on the floor of an ocean.
It is within the boundaries of features tentatively identified in images from various spacecraft as shorelines that MARSIS detected sedimentary deposits reminiscent of an ocean floor.
“MARSIS penetrates deep into the ground, revealing the first 60 – 80 meters (197 – 262 ft) of the planet’s subsurface,” says Wlodek Kofman, leader of the radar team at the Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble (IPAG). “Throughout all of this depth, we see the evidence for sedimentary material and ice.”
The sediments detected by MARSIS are areas of low radar reflectivity, which typically indicates low-density granular materials that have been eroded away by water and carried to their final resting place.
Scientists are interpreting these sedimentary deposits, which may still be ice-rich, as another indication that there once an ocean in this spot.
At this point scientists have proposed that there were two main oceans on the planet. One was aroun the 4 billion year ago range with the second at around 3 billion years ago.
For the scientist the MARSIS findings provide some of the best evidence yet that Mars did have large bodies of water on its surface and that the water played a major role in the planet’s geological history.