A global map depicting the dissection density of valley networks on Mars, in relation to the hypothesized northern ocean. Two candidate sea levels are shown: contact 1 with mean elevation at -1,680m and contact 2 with mean elevation of -3,760m (Images: Wei Luo, Northern Illinois University)
A zoomed-in area comparing the old map of Mars' surface of valley networks and the new one. (Left) A satellite image, with color indicating elevation; (center) the old map of valley networks; (right) the new map of valley networks
Could it be that Mars - the dry, red planet - once had an ocean so huge it covered around one-third of its surface … and that rain created it? New research by scientists from Northern Illinois University (NIU) and the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston would indicate that could be the case. Using an innovative computer program to produce a highly detailed global map of the valley networks on Mars, their findings indicate the networks are more than twice as extensive (2.3 times longer in total length) as had been previously shown in the only other planet-wide map of the valleys. These valley networks roughly form a belt around the planet between the equator and mid-southern latitudes, which would indicate the presence of a long-gone ocean.
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