The first application of a unique approach for assessing Mars’ gravitational force lends credence to the theory that the planet formerly possessed a vast northern ocean.
In doing so, the approach more precisely specifies the scope of what scientists refer to as the northern Martian paleo-ocean.
The findings were reported in the journal Icarus.
Jaroslav Klokonk, professor emeritus at the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, led the study. One of the three co-authors is Gunther Kletetschka, an associate research professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute. Kletetschka is also a professor at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic.
“A lot of people are excited about water on Mars because there may be life forms that once existed on Mars or maybe exist today in some bacterial form,” Kletetschka stated. “We can use this gravity approach to look for water on Mars because we have done it already on Earth.”
According to him, “this gravity approach found a shoreline of a long-ago lake in a region of northern Africa, and its finding was consistent with the archaeological evidence indicating a shoreline of that lake.”
According to scientists, researching the gravitational elements of Mars to better comprehend the planet improves on previous techniques. They point out that it may “provide complete information with a better insight of the celestial body, applicable in geology, geophysics, hydrology, glaciology and other disciplines.”
Kletetschka and colleagues’ technique varies from the standard method of mapping a surface-based solely on gravity anomalies.
Gravity anomalies are areas of higher or lesser gravitational force exerted by the surface characteristics of a planetary body. A mountain would have a larger gravitational pull than a planet with no surface characteristics because it has a higher concentration of mass. The gravitational force would be reduced in ocean basins and trenches.
The authors employed a technique established by Klokonk to examine gravity aspects calculated from gravity anomaly observations in their Mars research. Gravity aspects are mathematical expressions that describe gravity anomalies.
They also used topography data from NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor, which launched in November 1996 and spent four and a half years mapping the planet.
Klokoonk used this method to confirm previous findings indicating the existence of vast paleolakes or paleo-river systems beneath the Saharan dunes on Earth. In his 2017 publication, he also proposed a portion of the Grand Egyptian Sand Sea as another candidate for a paleolake.
The gravity aspects approach has also been used to compare the geographic features of Earth to those of cloud-shrouded Venus. Kletetschka is a co-author of a manuscript published in the journal Scientific Reports in July 2023.