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Ancient Mars May Have Been Covered In Ice, Not Water, Study Suggests

UBC researchers have concluded that the early Martian landscape probably looked similar to this image of the Devon ice cap.
Credit: Anna Grau Galofre

As the Perseverance rover heads to Mars to look for signs of ancient life, a new study suggests the Red Planet could have been “covered in ice sheets” and not a valley of rivers, as previously thought.

The research theorizes that if the valleys on Mars work the same way they do on Earth–in particular, those in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago–they would have been formed by water melting beneath glacial ice. This would put a damper to the “warm and wet ancient Mars” theory, thus constraining the climate on the Red Planet and “the search for ancient life.”

“For the last 40 years, since Mars’s valleys were first discovered, the assumption was that rivers once flowed on Mars, eroding and originating all of these valleys,” said the study’s lead author, Arizona State University Geophysicist Anna Grau Galofre, in a statement. “But there are hundreds of valleys on Mars, and they look very different from each other.”


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