- (Image: Reuters/NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/LANL)
New radar imaging on Mars has identified an area that contains massive flood channels, addressing once again the issue of water on the Red Planet.
This new discovery opens up the discussion over how water shaped the planet over millions of years and the new images also has lead to scientists speculating that water could have been on the surface of Mars as recently as 500 million years ago- that's much closer than the 2.5 billion years ago that has been widely accepted.
Most, if not all, of the water on Mars currently is located in the planet's polar ice caps, with the rest of the surface being a barren, dry and dusty land.
Scientists were able to use the shallow radar onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to scan the surface under the Elysium Planitia.
"This is the first time we've been able to see buried flood channels on a planet other than the Earth," Gareth Morgan, a geologist at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, told SPACE.com.
The researchers found the flood channels are nearly twice as deep as previously thought at more than 200 feet deep.
"That shows previous ideas of erosion, of how much water have gone through Marte Vallis, have been underestimated," Morgan said. "There was more significant flooding than before thought, and it's interesting to think of where this water might have come from during this relatively dry period."
By researching the contours of the Martian planet, scientists on Earth can use that information to develop a more comprehensive understanding of how Mars came to be in its present state.
"The source of the floodwaters suggests they originated from a deep groundwater reservoir and may have been released by local tectonic or volcanic activity," Morgan said. "There's also evidence of channels buried by lava or other sorts of materials in other areas on Mars, and we'd like to apply the same sort of radar studies to those," he added.