The European Space Agency have discovered an area on mars, that billions of years ago, hosted a 3,000km megaflood when groundwater came pouring from a source known as the Echus Chasma. The epic flood was caused by shifting tectonic plates and volcanic activity.
The megaflood occurred over 3 billion years ago when volcanic and tectonic activity were rampant on the surface. New images from the ESA’s Mars Express satellite show the extent of the flooding and the scars left by the massive movement of water in the Kasei Valles region.
ESA are accurately mapping the area and have noted that Echus Chasma is located east of the volcanic region Tharsis and north of the Valles Marineris canyon system. The scars left over from the megaflood can be seen from the source at Echus Chasma to the plains of Chryse Planitia, 300km away.
‘A combination of volcanism, tectonics, collapse, and subsidence in the Tharsis region led to several massive groundwater releases from Echus Chasma, which subsequently flooded the Kasei Valles region around 3.6-3.4 billion years ago. These ancient mega-floods have left their mark on the features seen today.’ ESA Statement
One of the major features among the images released is a 25 kilometer impact crater named Worcester Crater. Despite showing signs of the erosion, the crater stood firm against the epic flood. A depression within the crater suggests that a layer of ice was possibly present at the time of the flood.
Kasei Valles has likely seen floods of many different sizes, brought about by the changing tectonic and volcanic activity in the nearby Tharsis region over 3 billion years ago.
The landscape was pulled apart under the strain of these forces, groundwater bursting from its ripped seams to create not only violent floods, but also the unique fracture patterns seen at Sacra Mensa and Sacra Fossae.
Snow and ice melted by volcanic eruptions also likely contributed to torrential, muddy outpourings, while glacial activity may have further shaped the channel system.
Now silent, one can only imagine from examples on Earth the roar of gushing water that once cascaded through Kasei Valles, undermining cliff faces and engulfing craters, and eventually flooding onto the plains of Chryse Planitia. ESA Statement
While much of the blanket of material surrounding the crater – which was originally thrown out from inside the crater during the impact – has been eroded, the section downstream of the flood has survived. Over time this has led to the overall appearance of a streamlined island, with its stepped topography downstream perhaps suggesting variations in water levels or different flood episodes. – ESA
Water on Mars:
We have known about the possibilities of water on Mars since the Mariner 9 mission back in 1971. Water erosion signs were seen but could not be absolutely confirmed until the Viking orbiters reached the planet. The Viking Orbiters had shown that floods had caused massive erosion and carved huge valleys. They also confirmed the presence of weather fronts, fog and ice at the poles.
Curiosity revealed, in 2013, that the water on Mars could once have been good enough to drink. Soil analyzed contained a little bit of moisture which could benefit future Martian settlers. More recently, scientists have estimated that Mars once had more water than the Arctic Ocean. This water was present for more than 1.5 billion years; enough time for life to develop. 87 percent of the water has been lost into space which left the planet barren, dry and lifeless.