An artist

The other blue planet: What Mars might’ve looked like, billions of years ago

Autore: ExtremeTech

An artist's concept of Mars' west hemisphere, billions of years ago, when it still had its oceans and atmosphere

A long time ago, Mars wasn’t the barren lump of rock and dust that it is today. Evidence gathered by rovers and satellites such as Curiosity and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter suggests that, billions of years ago, the Red Planet was once covered in lakes and oceans, and that it had a thicker atmosphere. It may have even supported life. Any water and life is now gone, but once upon a time, Mars might’ve looked a lot like Earth.

In the beautiful images above and below, Kevin Gill has attempted to recreate what Mars may have looked like billions of years ago. The images are somewhere between an artist’s concept and a scientific approximation. Gill used real elevation data to plot out Mars’ oceans, mountains, valleys, and other geological features — but then he used his own judgment to paint in the deserts, forests, and so on, using textures from NASA’s Blue Marble imagery. “There is no scientific reasoning behind how I painted it; I tried to envision how the land would appear given certain features or the effects of likely atmospheric climate. For example, I didn’t see much green taking hold within the area of Olympus Mons and the surrounding volcanoes, both due to the volcanic activity and the proximity to the equator,” Gill says.

The image above is of the western hemisphere of Mars, with Olympus Mons on the left horizon, the Tharsis Montes volcanoes a bit closer to the middle, and the Valles Marineris canyons near the center. In the image below we see the eastern hemisphere, with a slightly more verdant palette. In both images you can see the huge ocean that once filled the Vastitas Borealis basin and covered half the planet.

Mars' east hemisphere, billions of years ago, when it might've been covered in water/atmosphere

There is growing evidence that Mars was once a very wet planet. Most recently, Curiosity trekked across Rocknest, a site that was almost certainly a massive riverbed billions of years ago. Imagery from the MRO, which orbits Mars, has revealed river deltas, gullies, and oceanic coastlines. We’re almost certain that Mars once had a thick atmosphere, too — but because the planet lacks a global magnetic field to deflect solar winds, the atmosphere has been steadily burnt away over the millennia.

The big question, though, is whether Mars ever supported life. Gill’s colorful images clearly postulate that ancient Mars, with surface water and an atmosphere, was once capable of sustaining life. So far, there is little evidence to suggest this was the case — but hey, that’s exactly the evidence that Curiosity is tasked with gathering over the next couple of years.

Another interesting way of looking at these images is to think of them as a futuristic Mars, after human terraforming. If we could successfully build an atmosphere around Mars, and somehow refill the oceans, Gill’s images are a good idea of how the planet would look.

The image below, incidentally, is what Mars actually looks like from space — as seen by the Mars Global Surveyor back in 1999. The white puffs are ice clouds hanging over the Tharsis volcanoes, which you see on the left side of of the image at the top of this story.

Mars, as seen by the Mars Global Surveyor in 1999

Now read: Hubble captures photo that looks back 13.2 billion years to the creation of the universe

4 thoughts on “The other blue planet: What Mars might’ve looked like, billions of years ago

  1. A parte quello sfigato di Kevin Ferderline che ha avuto una parte nel mio telefilm preferito…bleah..Mi ha fatto piacere vedere che nell’unico momento di gloria gli hanno tirato un pugno..cmq..

    Ma Gill e la ragazza con i capelli scuri non stavano insieme?Non erano terminato la stagione precedente che stavano a letto insieme?
    Però stà diventando in pò horror..ieri mi è passata la fame mentre lo guardavo, è iniziato con quello che cuciva e rammendava cadaveri, e dopo i cadaveri parlavano tranquillamente tra di loro del più e del meno..ma dai!!
    Ma Sarah muore poi? ho saputo questo, è vero?

  2. allore salvatene 4 ed eliminatene 4
    (non li metto in ordine alfabetico)

    1zac efron
    2vanessa hudgens
    3asheley tisdale
    4brenda asnicar
    5santiago talledo
    6laura esquivel
    7andrs gill
    8alessandra mastronardi
    9leonardo dicaprio
    10tylor swift
    11 miley cyrus
    12 selena gomez
    13asheley legat
    14ludovico fremont
    15matteo branciamore
    16avril lavigne
    17britney spars
    18hilary duff
    19daniel radcliffe
    20gemelle olsen
    21jesse meccarteney
    22brenda song
    23emily osment
    24riccardo scamarcio
    25laura chiatti
    26gastron soffritti
    27tokio hotel
    28jonas brothers
    29marco carta
    30finley
    31david henrie
    32jacopo sarno
    33i gemelli sprouse
    34robert pantison
    35cody linley
    36mitchel musso
    37kristen stewart
    38demi lovato
    39thelma fardin
    40tylor lautner

    scegliete e stellinate!!

  3. Innanzitutto buona domenica a tutti.
    Praticamente devo fare 15 ore di viaggio per raggiungere roma per un concorso…. la mia unica salvezza è l’mp3 ma sono stanca della solita musica… Mi aiutate? Datemi dei titoli di canzoni da scaricare…. al migliore 10 punti
    e’ vero non ho specificato il genere… ma solo perchè non ha nessuna importanza… amo tutta la musica (se bella)

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