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Ancient Mars Ocean Found?

Soulskill posted 1 year,15 days | from the it-was-in-the-garage-all-along dept.

Mars 71

astroengine writes "With the help of rover Curiosity, we now know that ancient Mars had large quantities of liquid water flowing across its surface. However, evidence for large bodies of water — i.e. seas/oceans — has been hard to come by. But using high-resolution orbital data, Caltech scientists now think they've found a long-dry river delta that once flowed into a very large body of water. Welcome to the Aeolis Riviera — the strongest evidence yet for a Martian coastline. "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, Caltech postdoctoral scholar and lead author of the paper that was published (abstract) in the Journal of Geophysical Research."

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Water, or liquid. (0)

Kenja (541830) | 1 year,15 days | (#44305491)

Not all that flows is H2O. Not sure how they could determine the chemical composition of what formed these.

Re:Water, or liquid. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#44305509)

Maybe they read it in the bible.
Also, different liquids flow differently, leaving tell-tale signs of what made it by the markings it left behind.

Re:Water, or liquid. (5, Funny)

formfeed (703859) | 1 year,15 days | (#44305513)

Not all that flows is H2O. Not sure how they could determine the chemical composition of what formed these.

Yeah. But they also found blueberries. And blueberries need water.

3..
2..
1..

Re:Water, or liquid. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#44306379)

If Mars used to be Class M, then sure it had roddenberries.

Re:Water, or liquid. (5, Insightful)

osu-neko (2604) | 1 year,15 days | (#44305611)

Not all that flows is H2O. Not sure how they could determine the chemical composition of what formed these.

Well, for that matter, the delta-like feature could have been sculpted by aliens. However, it's generally safe to rule out any absurdly unlikely reason when a far more likely one is available. There aren't a lot of candidates for alternate liquids to occur in large enough quantities at that location. In fact, I'm only aware of the one candidate, unless you want to resort to bonkers-level improbabilities (the chemical equivalent of "aliens did it")...

Re:Water, or liquid. (1)

able1234au (995975) | 1 year,15 days | (#44305921)

Perhaps they are thinking of lava flows such as we have seen on the moon.

Re:Water, or liquid. (1)

spike hay (534165) | 1 year,14 days | (#44310461)

Alluvial deposits look nothing like lava flows.

Re:Water, or liquid. (1)

able1234au (995975) | 1 year,14 days | (#44313585)

Agree. i was just trying to answer the earlier question which was what other than H2O produces large flows. Personally i believe it was water but the only other large flows i have seen is lava. I agree it was not lava that did this.

Re:Water, or liquid. (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | 1 year,15 days | (#44305975)

There's a bunch of hydrocarbons that form liquids at the temperatures found on mars. The atmosphere still contains traces of methane.

Re:Water, or liquid. (1)

discontinuity (792010) | 1 year,14 days | (#44308617)

There's a bunch of hydrocarbons that form liquids at the temperatures found on mars.

At what pressure? This matters as much as temperature in determining the phase of a substance.

Re:Water, or liquid. (1)

Khyber (864651) | 1 year,14 days | (#44309785)

Given the similarity of mass between the moon and Mars, probably 1/6th pressure, assuming there was an atmosphere in the first place to keep it all there, which, as we see........

Re:Water, or liquid. (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | 1 year,14 days | (#44310961)

Planet mass doesn't have much to do with atmospheric pressure. Venus is around the size of Earth, yet the pressure is 90x higher on its surface.

Re:Water, or liquid. (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | 1 year,14 days | (#44310947)

What ever the pressure was before the atmosphere was torn away by the sun when it lost its magnetic field, providing it used to have one.

Re:Water, or liquid. (1)

PPH (736903) | 1 year,14 days | (#44308769)

We send a rover to Mars. It picks up some rocks and does a few tests on them. Analysis can reveal the most likely liquids in which certain minerals will dissolve, re-crystallize and what sort of metamorphosis we are likely to find.

Re:Water, or liquid. (1)

spike hay (534165) | 1 year,14 days | (#44310569)

Like the other poster said, not at the pressures you see on Mars, and not at normal temperatures. Ice can't even exist on the surface of Mars without sublimating away. If it occured in the past when atmospheric pressure was higher, then the temperature would have been higher from the greenhouse effect, meaning that it wouldn't be cold enough anyway.

Also, Mars has an oxidizing atmosphere, hence the red color. That isn't compatible with free hydrocarbons on the surface. That and you'd need a lot of hydrocarbons for an ocean. You only see that in the outer solar system where things are much colder.

Considering that Mars currently has loads of permafrost and current rock glaciers, as well as evidence of nearer-past glaciation, liquid water is a much more parsimonius answer.

Re:Water, or liquid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44307399)

It was the new netherlanders.

Re:Water, or liquid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44307901)

Sheldon? Is that you?

Re:Water, or liquid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44308735)

Well, for that matter, the delta-like feature could have been sculpted by aliens. However, it's generally safe to rule out any absurdly unlikely reason when a far more likely one is available. There aren't a lot of candidates for alternate liquids to occur in large enough quantities at that location. In fact, I'm only aware of the one candidate, unless you want to resort to bonkers-level improbabilities (the chemical equivalent of "aliens did it")...

TFA: "Looking down from its orbit, the MRO has been able to image these veined, raised structures..."

Speaking for the Council, K'Breel reminds all citizens to take pride in their heritage as the filthy invaders from the blue world stare in awe and admiration at our mighty gelsacs, and of the fluidic evidence left behind at the ritual mass spawning grounds.

Marvelous news (2)

mendax (114116) | 1 year,15 days | (#44305497)

This is great news, not surprising, but great none the less. It's just that more evidence that Mars was a living, breathing planet, and might still be that way in some limited forms. Or perhaps not even all that limited if life on Mars never went beyond the microscopic form. But I'll get really excited and piss in my pants with giddiness if we learn that the transpermia theory has been confirmed and that life on Earth started on Mars. But that's a long, long way away.

Re:Marvelous news (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#44305667)

We escaped from Mars to earth for a simpler life after removing all evidences of technology, as we realized how it was destroying society.
Or at least that's what people WANT you to believe.

Xenu clearly used a death ray on the planet in an attempt to get rid of us once, turning it into a dust ball!
Long live Xenu! Earth is next!

Re:Marvelous news (3, Interesting)

As_I_Please (471684) | 1 year,15 days | (#44305863)

If it were up to me, I'd prefer that Martian life had no relation to life on Earth. Two results from this:

1) It will give us new information on the kinds of life that can exist (Is it carbon-based? Does it need water?). Similarities add constraints on how life must be; differences remove them.
2) It will all but prove that life is plentiful in the universe. If life independently emerged twice in the same solar system, then wherever it is possible for life to exist, it will be found.

Re:Marvelous news (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#44306555)

To be honest though, we are preeeetty damn sure life can only use more or less the same elements we do.
Maybe not in a similar DNA or even RNA model, but still pretty much the same elements. Maybe on other worlds, the only life presently is just massive tumors growing out to consume as much resources as possible. That is one theory of what life could have been like on early Earth before it became stable cell shapes like we see today. But like most stuff back then, a lot of it is heavy theory. All these underground caverns we are finding are literally going to rewrite the history books in the coming years as we research the life inside of them.

There was that bacteria found to be able to use an alternative element to the usual ones, one that is normally lethal at that, so there could be life using other elements in the same way. (I'm not a chemist so don't know if the elements beneath these are any more or less stable for being used as life. Arsenic could just lucky enough to have semi-similar interactions needed to replace phosphors, the others might not have that luck, but don't quote me on that)

Silicon life is also a possibility, maybe.
Or other more exotic things like life growing on metal rich planets possibly using metals a lot.
All it takes is one bacterial line to become immune to the possible damage from elements to be able to chomp on them and convert them to something that might be used by some other lifeform however many years down the line. (sort of like those antibiotic stress tests where there is a dish with multiple intensity levels to see what the right dose would be to eliminate near enough all the infection, wish I could find that video, it was pretty cool, showed you the evolution of the bacterial lines to the point where some overcame the antibiotic and became resistant)
We have created DNA with metals in them before, so who knows what could happen in metal rich planets. It would be fantastic to see.

And then there are even weirder things, such as life living on planets around suns completely different to ours. Who knows what could happen there.

If life on Mars was the same as Earth life, that would be so insanely boring.
But just like all these caves we have found deep on Earth, that is what we will likely need to do on Mars to find any life.
Especially if it is done towards the poles since ice.

Re:Marvelous news (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44310833)

There are three possibilities. Either life is common, rare, or unique to Earth. I think finding any of these results would be fascinating, since we have no fucking idea how rare or common life is.

Re:Marvelous news (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | 1 year,14 days | (#44309045)

But I'll get really excited and piss in my pants with giddiness if we learn that the transpermia theory has been confirmed and that life on Earth started on Mars.

What will you do if it's the other way around (life on Mars started on Earth)?

Re:Marvelous news (1)

Khyber (864651) | 1 year,14 days | (#44309805)

"It's really quite a simple choice: Life, Death, or Los Angeles."

Hate to rag on someone's sig but there are worse places than LA that I've lived in...

If I had lived on Mars, I'd likely say something far worse towards it than anything LA could throw at me.

"we now know" or "we hypothesize" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#44305525)

cuz there is actually no evidence of H2O as of yet... seriously if you KNOW something it's a fact, not a hypothesis .. get your facts straight.

Re:"we now know" or "we hypothesize" (2)

Greg01851 (720452) | 1 year,15 days | (#44305535)

Actually there's plenty of evidence of water on Mars... get your facts straight.

Re:"we now know" or "we hypothesize" (5, Informative)

wierd_w (1375923) | 1 year,15 days | (#44305703)

Indeed. Just off the top of my head:

Gypsum sand and gypsum inclusions in rock strata.
Calcium and sodium perchlorate salts
Hydrated silica clay

All three of those require not just water, but often standing pools of water. The perchlorates especially, which at least on earth, form when salt water is slowly evaporated under exposure from strong UV radiation. Gypsum is a hydrated calcium sulphate salt, and requires liquid water to crystallize.

The hydrated silica clay can from just from ambient soil moisture working its magic on feldspar minerals, but usually requies active weathering. Like, rain.

As the parent said, there is ample evidence of water having been on mars. Lots of water.

Re:"we now know" or "we hypothesize" (1)

khallow (566160) | 1 year,14 days | (#44306811)

That's the nice thing about a sample return mission like the one that's been proposed. It'll confirm your above opinion of the evidence. Something that looks like gypsum sand to a rover, may well be. But if it looks like gypsum sand in a lab on Earth, then that's a vastly more definitive piece of evidence.

Re:"we now know" or "we hypothesize" (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | 1 year,14 days | (#44307447)

That's the nice thing about a sample return mission like the one that's been proposed. It'll confirm your above opinion of the evidence. Something that looks like gypsum sand to a rover, may well be. But if it looks like gypsum sand in a lab on Earth, then that's a vastly more definitive piece of evidence.

That's not really necessary as your situation isn't really possible.

Crystals/chemicals/etc don't really have many options to form 'differently'. When they form differently, they aren't the same. Sure you can get some isomers, but even then those don't necessarily have the same properties.

For your premise, that all of those minerals formed via some process other than one that involves water, would require a huge coincidence that the rover could somehow find all of these minerals which happened to form without water even though all of our experience tells us is unlikely.

Re:"we now know" or "we hypothesize" (1)

khallow (566160) | 1 year,14 days | (#44308193)

Crystals/chemicals/etc don't really have many options to form 'differently'.

When you say 'differently', are you quoting someone? On Earth, we don't actually have this experience. There's a vast number of such chemicals and crystals formed under subtly different conditions and chemical composition. For gypsum, merely changing the quantity of water changes the mineral. We also can partly (not even fully) substitute other elements for calcium and sulfur to get new minerals.

For your premise, that all of those minerals formed via some process other than one that involves water, would require a huge coincidence that the rover could somehow find all of these minerals which happened to form without water even though all of our experience tells us is unlikely.

That's not my premise. We already know water exists on Mars. We see it directly in Mars's atmosphere. The polar caps show evidence of the presence of water ice. The previous poster asserted something stronger than merely the presence of water:

All three of those require not just water, but often standing pools of water.

and

As the parent said, there is ample evidence of water having been on mars. Lots of water.

Unlike Earth, there's been a very long time geologically to concentrate water in calcium sulfate, to create those perchlorates, and so on. We know the conditions are vastly different. I think it's a bit foolish to so confidently extrapolate from our limited experiences on Earth to that of Mars without acknowledging that we don't have supporting evidence for this sort of intuition.

Such undue certainty has been wrong in the past and it will be wrong in the future.

Re:"we now know" or "we hypothesize" (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44307791)

This is a question born of ignorance on my part, but if there were once oceans and such on mars, wouldn't there be steep land masses where contentnets used to rise out of the ancient oceans?

Also do we know enough about the interior of mars to know how land forms, the crust shifts, etc?

Re:"we now know" or "we hypothesize" (1)

PPH (736903) | 1 year,14 days | (#44308795)

steep land masses where contentnets used to rise out of the ancient oceans?

Yes, but give them a few million years of wind erosion after things dry out and their slopes will come to resemble dry land features.

Re:"we now know" or "we hypothesize" (1)

toshikodo (2976757) | 1 year,15 days | (#44306347)

I'd be interested in what other fluid could have carved the canyons and washouts that litter the surface of mars. Water is simple and very common. I'm not sure that there is enough liquid hydrocarbon out there to create these flow structures.

Re:"we now know" or "we hypothesize" (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | 1 year,14 days | (#44312715)

There are (Titan rains methane, and has large lakes of ethane), just not on Mars.

Martian atmosphere resembles a colder version of what happened to venus's atmosphere. Venus likewise lacks a strong geomagneric dynamo. Some planetary scientists speculate that this is not because venus isn't heavy enough, but because the atmosphere is so hot, that mantle convection is not viggorous enough to create the dynamo. Mars just wasn't heavy enough, or cooled too signifigantly. Not enough data is available at this time. Regardless, both planets lost much of the lighter elements of their atmospheres to space from abrasive solar particle showers, due to both planets lacking a strong magnetic dynamo.

A significant portion of a hydrocarbon's mass is hydrogen, a light element that was blasted away from said atmosphere. Mars lacks the hydrogen needed to have large quantities of molecular hydrocarbons in its atmosphere. It has carbon dioxide instead.

Titan, being one of saturn's moons, is protected by the very powerful magnetic field produced by its parent, and has such retained all the hydrogen it sucked in during its formation in the early solar system. Its atmosphere does undergo reactions with highly energetic particles caught in saturn's ring system and magnetic field, but this only causes recombinations of molecules in its upper atmosphere, and causes it to appear more hazy, rather than it being blasted off into space.

Because of this, titan retains one of the thickest atmospheres for a body of its mass in our solar system, and does have liquid phase hydrocarbons of sufficient quantity to cause liquid erosion patterns on its "land masses". Mars simply does not.

Back to the future (-1)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | 1 year,15 days | (#44305551)

Thanks Mars. Its back past gives a fair picture of the future Earth, thanks to global warming.

Re:Back to the future (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#44305575)

Actually Venus is a better picture of where we are headed.

Re:Back to the future (1)

khallow (566160) | 1 year,14 days | (#44306831)

No, because that CO2 is locked up in rock and if we manage to partly boil the oceans, we'll create a very efficient process for transferring heat to space while simultaneously getting rid of the cause.

Re:Back to the future (5, Funny)

Brett Buck (811747) | 1 year,15 days | (#44305585)

Global warming is going to destroy the Earth's magnetic field or geodynamo? Is there anything global warming *can't* do?

Re:Back to the future (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#44305621)

make ice cream.

Re:Back to the future (4, Funny)

dadelbunts (1727498) | 1 year,14 days | (#44306745)

Its global CLIMATE CHANGE. And it leads to cooler winters. YOUR ICE CREAM HAS BEEN MADE. SIR

Re:Back to the future (2)

Zaatxe (939368) | 1 year,14 days | (#44307125)

Nothing like facts to destroy jokes...

Re:Back to the future (2, Funny)

Spy Handler (822350) | 1 year,15 days | (#44305685)

Global warming is a lot like Jesus. True believers see them everywhere including things like toast, whereas normal people cannot.

Re:Back to the future (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | 1 year,15 days | (#44305693)

Ahem, I hope your toast Jesus reference is frivolous. We all know the only true representations of Jesus are on tortillas.

        http://www.google.com/search?q=jesus+tortilla&client=safari&rls=en&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=1CjmUby8FYm9iwLCmYGADA&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1586&bih=1008 [google.com]

Re:Back to the future (1)

TheGoodNamesWereGone (1844118) | 1 year,15 days | (#44305677)

Thanks Mars. Its back past gives a fair picture of the future Earth, thanks to global warming.

So you'll be riding a bicycle from now on?

Northern lowlands, result of ancient collision (3, Interesting)

Trax3001BBS (2368736) | 1 year,15 days | (#44305587)

One would expect a large body of water there. How the Universe Works "Extreme Planets" mentions a theory of Mars
being hit by an object moving the Northern hemisphere crust to the Sorthern hemisphere.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2t2VkDYOfYM#t=12m33 [youtube.com] (12:33 in, link starts there)
I would assume leaving the Northern side lower as a result.

Re:Northern lowlands, result of ancient collision (1)

Trax3001BBS (2368736) | 1 year,15 days | (#44305633)

I would assume leaving the Northern side lower as a result.

Ah duh, rewritten and that was removed, then pasted the draft.

Maybe there was an advanced civilization on Mars.. (-1)

Brad1138 (590148) | 1 year,15 days | (#44305597)

That might have records of god creating earth 6,000 years ago...

That's nice (3, Insightful)

TheGoodNamesWereGone (1844118) | 1 year,15 days | (#44305669)

No, I'm not kidding. It's really nice. It's the umpteemth conformation that Mars once had water. WE GET IT. MARS ONCE HAD WATER. Boots. Mars. Do it, NASA. This isn't rocket science.

Re:That's nice (4, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | 1 year,15 days | (#44305905)

Boots. Mars. Do it, NASA. This isn't rocket science.

No, unfortunately it's political science.

Re:That's nice (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#44305983)

No, I'm not kidding. It's really nice. It's the umpteemth conformation that Mars once had water. WE GET IT. MARS ONCE HAD WATER. Boots. Mars. Do it, NASA. This isn't rocket science.

Are you Cave Johnson? All you are missing is something about banging rocks together and lemons.

Re:That's nice (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44308925)

It seems you read as well as you right. This is evidence for a large ocean. I don't think it's very strong evidence, but still an ocean is much bigger than just evidence of water.

XKCD reference (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#44305697)

Here's the obligatory XKCD [xkcd.com] reference.

In Soviet Russia (0)

Roachie (2180772) | 1 year,15 days | (#44305827)

... ocean finds YOU!!!

Re:In Soviet Russia (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#44306467)

... ocean finds YOU!!!

Dude, thats not even funny...

Re:In Soviet Russia (1)

bonehead (6382) | 1 year,14 days | (#44310417)

The joke wasn't even all that funny when it was new, and told by its originator.

7 centuries (or so it seems) of bastardization later, it's amazing that there are still those who think it makes them clever.

Mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#44305919)

So first I read this [xkcd.com] and then I look at my Slashdot feed and it says "... Mars Ocean Found?".

OK, so the next step? (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | 1 year,15 days | (#44306177)

Maybe a subsurface probe that drills down where we expect to find liquid water, then to tests there? Maybe just dig a deep hole and test. Hell, set off a bomb if you have to. Our best bets are under the dirt now.

Re:OK, so the next step? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44307639)

We must explore the deep part of the area where the old ocean was. We already know there is sub-surface ice so water is underground. It may take many years to recover but if the drain plug is located and placed back onto the drain hole water should begin filling.

editors not worth shit (0)

Full of shit (2908417) | 1 year,15 days | (#44306267)

Mars is a noun, martian is the adjective. TFS even had one the eds could copy.

Well, we know where that comes from (5, Interesting)

ControlFreal (661231) | 1 year,14 days | (#44306767)

This is all caused by XKCD [xkcd.com] .

Great, now let's fill it! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44306777)

Oblig whatif [xkcd.com] .

Well, duh... (0)

flyingfsck (986395) | 1 year,14 days | (#44306807)

Sad, but it has really gotten to the 'well, duh' stage.

We get it NASA. Mars once had lots of surface water. Said water is now probably sub surface, having sunk in as the core cooled. Now go and drill some wells for oil, gas and water.

strange though (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | 1 year,14 days | (#44307391)

Doesn't it appear that the water would have been flowing upward, away from the lowest point on the lower part of the image. Assuming nothing changed that much since there was water, that seems really odd. It looks like the flowing sediment and stuff avoided the bottom part for no apparent reason. In every delta I've seen on Earth, it doesn't do that.

John Carter of Mars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44307777)

Gee, with the combine "supposed" brain power of Slashdot contributors and Anonymous has to be the first to point out the famous works of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

quit it (1)

AndyKron (937105) | 1 year,14 days | (#44309881)

I'm tired of all the "water on Mars" reports. No jar of water, then NO WATER!

it's the physics, stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44309935)

"Both the ancient environments on Mars and the planet's sedimentary archive of these environments are turning out to be surprisingly Earth-like."

No shit, Sherlock. Mars may be a quarter the size of the Earth, but given similar conditions, water will flow, move sediment, create deltas, blah, blah, blah.

Why are these scientists always so surprised to find thing like this? "Gee, the volcanoes are even pointy with a hole in the top, just like ours!"

DiBiase? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44310365)

"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, this is MONEY MONEY MONEY MONEY MONEY" said Roman DiBiase, The Million Dollar Researcher."

For extra points (1)

whitroth (9367) | 1 year,14 days | (#44311061)

Where's Helium around that delta?

            mark "and is Dejah Thoris lounging by the Aeolian Riviera?"

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