Ancient Mars

The map below shows the planet Mars during the late Noachian Period, around 3.8 billion years ago, labeled with modern feature names.

Until around 3.5 billion years ago, Mars had a thicker atmosphere and was warmer than the present day, and evidence suggests that liquid water flowed on its surface, carving the many river channels that remain there today. The lakes shown on this map are lakes that are theorized to have existed around this time. In the north was an ocean, though it was probably never as high a sea level as shown here. At the north pole of the red planet was the ocean hundreds of meters deep. It is believed that much of this water was lost to space, carried away over time by the solar wind, and that which remains on Mars today is frozen in the polar ice caps and is also likely to be found frozen and buried across the planet under the surface layer of dust.

Many present-day geologic features and craters had yet to form or were in the process of forming, such as the Tharsis or Olympus volcanoes and the Valles Marineris canyon, but the map below uses modern terrain data so it doesn’t truly reflect how the terrain really would have looked back then. During this time period, Mars would have actually appeared to be more grey like the Moon or the planet Mercury, as the iron in the soil had yet to rust.

Also included on this map are the locations of the 7 successful Mars landers.

Mars in the Noachian Period

Terraformed Mars

Terraformed Mars

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