The early ocean known as Arabia (left, blue) would have looked like this when it formed 4 billion years ago on Mars, while the Deuteronilus ocean, about 3.6 billion years old, had a smaller shoreline. Both coexisted with the massive volcanic province Tharsis, located on the unseen side of the planet, which may have helped support the existence of liquid water. The water is now gone, perhaps frozen underground and partially lost to space, while the ancient seabed is known as the northern plains. | University of California, Berkeley

Oceans on Mars Appear to Have Formed Much Earlier Than Previously Thought

Changes in the elevation of ancient shorelines on Mars may have been caused by the emergence of the Tharsis volcanic region, suggesting large bodies of water formed early on the Red Planet.

A map of Mars today shows where scientists have identified possible ancient shoreline that may have been etched by intermittent oceans billions of years ago. The irregular elevations of these shorelines can be explained by the growth of the volcanic province called Tharsis some 3.7 billion years ago, which would have deformed the topography and misaligned the shorelines. Arabia (magenta) is more than 4 million years old, while the Deuteronilus (white) and Isidis (cyan) shoreline are several million years younger. The solid contour lines represent the Tharsis bulge (left) and the antipodal bulge it created (right), with dashed contour lines indicating the depressions in between. | University of California, Berkeley