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Iceberg tracks hint at ancient, freezing oceans on Mars

  • The EU-funded icyMARS project has found evidence of glaciers, frozen lakes and icebergs on Mars’s surface, which, according to principal investigator Dr Alberto Fairén, confirm the existence of very cold oceans on Mars around 4 billion years ago. ‘Picture the Arctic Ocean on earth … big massive amounts of ice forming glaciers and large armadas of icebergs floating on the seas and lakes. icyMARS is contributing to revealing Mars as it was, not that earth-like, but really alien,’ he said. Image: scour marks l
  • icyMARS proposes that conditions on the early Martian surface were freezing, as predicted by climate models, and at the same time there was a vigorous cold-water cycle that was active for hundreds of millions of years. The result is that early Mars would have been cold and wet. Image: (left) eskers, which form in glacial regions on earth, and (right) possibly on Mars’s Gale crater/ icyMARS
  • The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express mission is gathering data on Mars’s atmosphere, surface, history of water and potential for life. ESA researchers released images earlier this year suggesting water ice is hidden under the almost 3 billion-year-old Phlegra Montes range of hills, ridges and basins spanning 1 400 kilometres. Image: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
  • The EU-funded ACID-MARS project is investigating whether Martian clay minerals were formed from chemical processes involving water and acid. Clays are abundant on Mars, indicating an extensive presence of water at an early stage of the planet, said project coordinator Dr Javier Cuadros. The project is carrying out fieldwork to recreate conditions on Mars in Riotinto, Spain, a region which is often used as a stand-in for Mars due to its acidic and heavy-metal-rich conditions. Image: Christian Mavris
  • The EU-funded MARSVOLATILES project is looking deep into meteorites to find traces of water within their crystal structures. Principal Investigator Dr Lydia Hallis is comparing the types of hydrogen found inside a Martian meteorite with types of hydrogen in the Martian atmosphere. These measurements can tell us about the interactions between water in the Martian crust and water in the Martian atmosphere, and also indicate whether Mars’ water was sourced from the same place in the Solar System as earth’s, sh

Horizon takes a look at images of the familiar-yet-alien surface of Mars, seeking signs of water and possibly life.