Ancient Martian Megaflood: Floods of Unimaginable Magnitude Once Washed Through Gale Crater on Mars’ Equator

Oblique view of Gale Crater, Mars, with vertical exaggeration. The image combines elevation data from the High Resolution Stereo Camera on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter, image data from the Context Camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and color information from Viking Orbiter imagery. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/MSSS

Field Geology at Mars’ Equator Points to Ancient Megaflood

Floods of unimaginable magnitude once washed through Gale Crater on Mars’ equator around 4 billion years ago – a finding that hints at the possibility that life may have existed there, according to data collected by NASA’s Curiosity rover and analyzed in joint project by scientists from Jackson State University, Cornell, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Hawaii.

The research, “Deposits from Giant Floods in Gale Crater and Their Implications for the Climate of Early Mars,” was published on November 5, 2020, in Nature Scientific Reports.

The raging megaflood – likely touched off by the heat of a meteoritic impact, which unleashed ice stored on the Martian surface – set up gigantic ripples that are tell-tale geologic structures familiar to scientists on Earth.

“We identified megafloods for the first time using detailed sedimentological data observed by the rover Curiosity,” said co-author Alberto G. Fairén, a visiting astrobiologist in the College of Arts and Sciences. “Deposits left behind by megafloods had not been previously identified with orbiter data.”

As is the case on Earth, geological features including the work of water and wind have been frozen in time on Mars for about 4 billion years. These features convey processes that shaped the surface of both planets in the past.

This composite, false-color image of Mount Sharp inside Gale crater on Mars shows geologists a changing planetary environment. On Mars, the sky is not blue, but the image was made to resemble Earth so that scientists could distinguish stratification layers. Credit: NASA/JPL

This case includes the occurrence of giant wave-shaped features in sedimentary layers of Gale crater, often called “megaripples” or antidunes that are about 30-feet high and spaced about 450 feet apart, according to lead author Ezat Heydari, a professor of physics at Jackson State University.

The antidunes are indicative of flowing megafloods at the bottom of Mars’ Gale Crater about 4 billion years ago, which are identical to the features formed by melting ice on Earth about 2 million years ago, Heydari said.

The most likely cause of the Mars flooding was the melting of ice from heat generated by a large impact, which released carbon dioxide and methane from the planet’s frozen reservoirs. The water vapor and release of gases combined to produce a short period of warm and wet conditions on the red planet.

Condensation formed water vapor clouds, which in turn created torrential rain, possibly planetwide. That water entered Gale Crater, then combined with water coming down from Mount Sharp (in Gale Crater) to produce gigantic flash floods that deposited the gravel ridges in the Hummocky Plains Unit and the ridge-and-trough band formations in the Striated Unit.

The Curiosity rover science team has already established that Gale Crater once had persistent lakes and streams in the ancient past. These long-lived bodies of water are good indicators that the crater, as well as Mount Sharp within it, were capable of supporting microbial life.

“Early Mars was an extremely active planet from a geological point of view,” Fairén said. “The planet had the conditions needed to support the presence of liquid water on the surface – and on Earth, where there’s water, there’s life.

“So early Mars was a habitable planet,” he said. “Was it inhabited? That’s a question that the next rover Perseverance … will help to answer.”

Perseverance, which launched from Cape Canaveral on July 30, is scheduled to reach Mars on Feb. 18, 2021.

Reference: “Deposits from giant floods in Gale crater and their implications for the climate of early Mars” by E. Heydari, J. F. Schroeder, F. J. Calef, J. Van Beek, S. K. Rowland, T. J. Parker and A. G. Fairén, 5 November 2020, Scientific Reports.
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-75665-7

Joining Fairén and Heydari on the paper are Jeffrey F. Schroeder, Fred J. Calef, Jason Van Beek and Timothy J. Parker, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory; and Scott K. Rowland, University of Hawaii.

Data and funding were provided by NASA, Malin Space Science Systems, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the European Research Council.

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  • Charles Barth

    Perhaps ancient Mars also had a molten core, much like Earth. This would provide a magnetic field that would deflect the solar wind, thus making conditions more favorable for life forms to develop. Given the lower temperatures, it remains a possibility that life forms similar to what we see in the polar regions may have briefly emerged.
    Dr. CFB

  • Paul Ballotta

    Interesting that this event occuring 4 billion years ago on Mars is similar to one 2 million years ago on Earth. The verse from Genesis 2:6 which mentions a flood that wells up from the ground and waters the whole face of the earth are exactly the same conditions that preceeded the rise of Homo Erectus.

  • Bernardo T Gulen Jr.

    I had too much happened on my places that said better than where I am. Place that there’s no sickness,everything is almost family from Philippines traveled from our country to Los Angeles all the way to thier testination. Plane came back and I could see the plane above my building and I could not do anything. They are the one telling me rules, also judging if I violated or not. Started to the telescope I discovered using Google Map. Then real news paper article says about it. The user name is my name. Lots more I know.

  • Babu G. Ranganathan

    Babu G. Ranganathan*

    (B.A. Bible/Biology)


    A Newsweek article of September 21, 1998, p.12 mentions the high possibility of Earth life on Mars because of millions of tons of Earth soil ejected into space from ancient volcanic explosions. “We think there’s about 7 million tons of earth soil sitting on Mars”, says USC scientist Kenneth Nealson. “You have to consider the possibility that if we find life on Mars, it could have come from the Earth” [Weingarten, T., Newsweek, September 21, 1998, p.12]. This may also explain why life forms may exist on Venus, again because they originated from Earth.

    In the Earth’s past there was powerful volcanic activity which could have easily spewed dirt and rocks containing microbes and life into outer space which not only could have eventually reached Mars but also ended up traveling in orbit through space that we now know as meteors, comets, and asteroids. This would mean life forms found in meteorites originated from Earth in the first place.

    Secular scientists have a different explanation from creationist scientists on the volcanic eruptions of the Earth’s past. Creation scientists believe, as Genesis teaches, that as the fountains of the deep were opened to release water for the world-wide flood the force of the eruptions could have indeed spewed great amounts of earth soil into space.

    Life could not have evolved. A partially evolved cell would quickly disintegrate under the effects of random forces of the environment, especially without the protection of a complete and fully functioning cell membrane. A partially evolved cell cannot wait millions of years for chance to make it complete and living! In fact, it couldn’t have even reached the partially evolved state.

    Having the right conditions and raw material for life do not mean that life can originate or arise by chance. Stanley Miller, in his famous experiment in 1953, showed that individual amino acids (the building blocks of life) could come into existence by chance. But, it’s not enough just to have amino acids. The various amino acids that make-up life must link together in a precise sequence, just like the letters in a sentence, to form functioning protein molecules. If they’re not in the right sequence the protein molecules won’t work. It has never been shown that various amino acids can bind together into a sequence by chance to form protein molecules. Even the simplest cell is made up of many millions of various protein molecules.

    The probability of just an average size protein molecule arising by chance is 10 to the 65th power. Mathematicians have said any event in the universe with odds of 10 to 50th power or greater is impossible! The late great British scientist Sir Frederick Hoyle calculated that the odds of even the simplest cell coming into existence by chance is 10 to the 40,000th power! How large is this? Consider that the total number of atoms in our universe is 10 to the 82nd power.

    Also, what many don’t realize is that Miller had a laboratory apparatus that shielded and protected the individual amino acids the moment they were formed, otherwise the amino acids would have quickly disintegrated and been destroyed in the mix of random energy and forces involved in Miller’s experiment.

    Miller’s experiment produced equally both left-handed and right-handed amino acids, but all living things strictly require only left-handed amino acids. If a right-handed amino acid gets into the chain the protein won’t work.

    There is no innate chemical tendency for the various amino acids to bond with one another in a sequence. Any one amino acid can just as easily bond with any other. The only reason at all for why the various amino acids bond with one another in a precise sequence in the cells of our bodies is because they’re directed to do so by an already existing sequence of molecules found in our genetic code.

    Of course, once you have a complete and living cell then the genetic code and biological machinery exist to direct the formation of more cells, but how could life or the cell have naturally originated when no directing code and mechanisms existed in nature? Read my Internet article: HOW FORENSIC SCIENCE REFUTES ATHEISM.

    Visit my newest Internet site: THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION


    * I have had the privilege of being recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis “Who’s Who In The East” for my writings on religion and science, and I have given successful lectures (with question and answer time afterwards) defending creation from science before evolutionist science faculty and students at various colleges and universities.

  • woody

    The starting point of life was not proteins.

  • Earl Lovell

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    There is no discovery ever as big as all I know and can prove . I’m too old to write a book –I Know all my claims are very hard to believe but if I show proof people should be excited to want to know . I do not know if it is laziness or Blind what ?????????????? But the person that will pay enough attention he can help me carry the greatest discoveries to all the world.