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Evidence From The Mars Express
November 16th, 2011 10:04:59 pm
Evidence from the Mars Express High Resolution Stereo Camera for a frozen sea close to Mars' equator by John B. Murray, Jan-Peter Muller, Gerhard Neukum, Stephanie C. Werner, Stephan van Gasselt, Ernst Hauber, Wojciech J. Markiewicz, James W. Head III, Bernard H. Foing, David Page, Karl L. Mitchell, Ganna Portyankina & the HRSC Co-Investigator Team.
DeGirolamo- This paper published in 2005 indicates the possibility that what we are seeing here is a vast froze ocean, perhaps covered by just a thin cover of dust. Maybe only a few inches thick notice please the tectonic plate structure as seen on Earth.
Here is a little bit of an interview with one of the authors:
SD: Could the cracking of the crust down to that level have been caused by volcanism rather than tectonics?
JM: It could have been volcanism. There is the big Elysium volcano to the north, but that is really quite old. It is possible the cracking is some late manifestation associated with that, though it is actually quite far from the foot of Elysium, and there are very few signs of volcanic vents along most of the cracks.
SD: So these deep caverns on Mars are places where water has burst out of underground aquifers. Do you think there are more such places that haven't yet cracked open?
JM: There are a lot of places where you don't see signs of tectonic cracking. So presumably, beneath those, we'll find untapped areas of water.
SD: You found this frozen sea at the equator, which is significant because so far there's been no evidence for water at the equator.
JM: That's right. There's been some recent models looking at the tilt of Mars's axis, which at the moment is very similar to the Earth's. But that appears to be a coincidence, because throughout most of Mars's history, the axis was at 45 degrees, a far greater tilt.
As soon as you have a tilt of 45 degrees, you get a whole different climate, with more water ice and frost deposition at the equator. It's possible when this flood event occurred, it was during this period of frost deposition.
Gerhard Neukum dated this particular feature by counting the number of impact craters, and discovered it was only about 5 million years old. 5 million years sounds ancient to you and me, but in geological terms it's yesterday.
Now, as soon as you start to think about that, and that the kinds of things you require for life to form are water and carbon and an energy source and unlimited amounts of time - you have all those things here.
If you've got supplies of liquid water underground, then life may have been able to develop and sustain itself and reproduce. Underground life also would be protected from ultraviolet radiation and oxidation, things that will break up molecules at the surface.
Mars was warm and wet during its first billion years, and has probably had these vast underground water reserves ever since, from 3 or 4 billion years ago to at least 5 million years ago.
A million is an awful long time. There has not yet been a million days since the birth of Christ, for example. And we're not just talking about a million years, but thousands of millions of years of this water being there, under the surface.
That is plenty of time for life to develop, if it could. And so if life has developed, then I think it's highly likely it will be in this water, in this frozen sea. So we won't be looking for fossils, we'll be looking for the actual organisms themselves, frozen within the ice.