What Arabia Terra Tells Us About Water on Mars

Arabia Terra is a land area on Mars roughly the size of Europe, and sedimentary rocks there have led scientists to believe water, a key component for life as we know it, existed in this part of the planet 3-4 billion years ago.  This story comes to you from Science Daily

As part of a team of collaborators from Northern Arizona University and Johns Hopkins University, NAU PhD candidate Ari Koeppel recently discovered that water was once present in a region of Mars called Arabia Terra.

Arabia Terra is in the northern latitudes of Mars. Named in 1879 by Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, this ancient land covers an area slightly larger than the European continent. Arabia Terra contains craters, volcanic calderas, canyons and beautiful bands of rock reminiscent of sedimentary rock layers in the Painted Desert or the Badlands.

These layers of rock and how they formed was the research focus for Koeppel along with his advisor, associate professor Christopher Edwards of NAU’s Department of Astronomy and Planetary Science along with Andrew Annex, Kevin Lewis and undergraduate student Gabriel Carrillo of Johns Hopkins University. Their study, titled “A fragile record of fleeting water on Mars,” was funded by the NASA Mars Data Analysis Program and recently published in the journal Geology.

Topographic map of Mars. Arabia Terra is an ancient region that connects the southern highlands and the northern lowlands. Image credit: NASA/JPL/MOLA Science Team.

“We were specifically interested in using rocks on the surface of Mars to get a better understanding of past environments three to four billion years ago and whether there could have been climatic conditions that were suitable for life on the surface,” Koeppel said. “We were interested in whether there was stable water, how long there could have been stable water, what the atmosphere might have been like and what the temperature on the surface might have been like.”

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Northern Arizona University. “Brief presence of water in Arabia Terra on Mars: Team studied thermal inertia to understand how rock layers were formed.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/11/211130150450.htm (accessed December 9, 2021).

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