Mars was once covered with rivers

In ancient times, there were significantly more rivers on Mars than previously thought. This is evidenced by the relief forms that have recently been identified as river sediments. They were identified by the artificial intelligence system based on satellite data and images of the Curiosity rover.

Rivers were once very common on Mars. Source:

Rivers on Mars

Recently, the journal Geophysical Research Letters published an article authored by a number of American scientists in which they took a new look at the past of Mars, when liquid water was still flowing on its surface. 

Previously, scientists had already identified various landforms on the surface of the red planet that were formed under the influence of constant water flows: river valleys and watersheds. However, there were few of them, which led to the idea that even at the time when conditions allowed the hydrosphere of the planet to exist, it was mainly represented by long channels connecting a number of lakes and carrying their waters to the northern ocean.

In the new study, scientists used images of the surface of Mars obtained by orbiters and the Curiosity rover. It has been working on its surface for several years. They applied a neural network to their analysis, which helped classify various irregularities that had previously been poorly investigated.

Erosive landforms

However, first, this neural network, like any other, had to be trained. Research, conducted 25 years ago in a completely different field, came in handy here. Once, oil companies were preparing to extract “black gold” at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico and conducted comprehensive studies of the geology of the bottom of this ancient part of the world’s ocean.

In particular, they obtained detailed stratigraphy. That is, deposits of layers of river outflows that are preserved at the bottom. And the neural network was trained on them, which then took up the Martian images. And it made fascinating discoveries.

The program found that some ledges and wedge-shaped landforms, which previously had no connection with the channels at all, were actually sediments that were formed by constant streams of water. A detailed study of them confirmed that they were identical to those that Curiosity studied up close in Gale Crater, where water once flowed.

“Our research indicates that Mars could have had far more rivers than previously believed, which certainly paints a more optimistic view of ancient life on Mars,” says Benjamin T. Cardenas, lead author of the study. “It offers a vision of Mars where most of the planet once had the right conditions for life.”

According to

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