A NASA spacecraft may have explored the edges of an early Mars sea in 1997
Phys.org - Fri 15 Mar 17:27 GMT

NASA's first rover mission to Mars, the Pathfinder, imaged an extraterrestrial marine spillover landscape 22 years ago, according to a new paper by Planetary Science Institute Senior Scientist Alexis Rodriguez.

A NASA spacecraft may have explored the edges of an early Mars sea in 1997

  This could potentially yield evidence of Martian habitability, said Rodriguez, lead author on "The 1997 Mars Pathfinder Spacecraft Landing Site: Spillover Deposits from an Early Mars Inland Sea," which appears in Nature Scientific Reports.

  "Our paper shows a basin, with roughly the surface area of California, that separates most of the gigantic Martian channels from the Pathfinder landing site.

  "This sea is approximately 250 kilometers upstream from the Pathfinder landing site, an observation that reframes its paleo-geographic setting as part of a marine spillway, which formed a land barrier separating the inland sea and a northern ocean.

  "Our simulation shows that the presence of the sea would have attenuated cataclysmic floods, leading to shallow spillovers that reached the Pathfinder landing site and produced the bedforms detected by the spacecraft," Rodriguez said.

  The 1997 Mars Pathfinder Spacecraft Landing Site: Spillover Deposits from an Early Mars Inland Sea, Scientific Reports (2019).