Here's What Mars Would Look Like With Water

Wednesday, 12 October 2016 - 12:55PM
Space
Solar System
Mars
Wednesday, 12 October 2016 - 12:55PM
Here's What Mars Would Look Like With Water
Mars is on everybody's minds, from Elon Musk's plan to make humanity a multiplanetary species to President Obama's announcement that he aims to get astronauts to Mars by the 2030s. NASA's Curiosity rover is still taking photos on the Red Planet, revealing a harsh, weathered, dull-red landscape with rocky bluffs and cracked, dry surfaces:

 

But now, software engineer Kevin Gill has created an artist's rendering of what Mars might have looked like several billion years ago, back when it had oceans and a thicker atmosphere. By using information from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter, Gill created a digital map of the planet and used an editing program to create oceans (and greenery) that conformed to Mars' terrain:

http://discoverynews.tumblr.com/post/39547410538/blue-not-red-did-ancient-mars-look-like-this-is
 

Though Gill admits he's not an expert on astronomy or planetary ecology (like, you know, Liet Kynes from Dune), the image is still awe-inspiring. Besides having one of the largest mountains in the solar system (Olympus Mons), Mars is also home to one of the longest valleys, Vallis Marineris. The result is a landscape of extremes, something both familiar and alien.

But one of the most intriguing aspects of the images Gill has created are the touches of green. Even though it's purely speculative (no life, plant or otherwise, has been discovered on Mars), the inclusion of a biosphere (along with a hydrosphere and atmosphere) gives a glimpse of what a terraformed Mars might look like. With so many advocates lobbying for long-term colonization of Mars, the next scientific hurdle after establishing long-term settlements may be figuring out how to turn the Red Planet into another Blue Marble. Even if it looks like science-fiction now, images like Kevin Gill's may inspire the next generations to explore new scientific horizons. 

Hats off to Kevin!
Science
Science Art
Space
Solar System
Mars