What Would Mars Have Looked Like Covered in Water?

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The western hemisphere of Mars, with the volcano Olympus Mons on the horizon. Photo courtesy Kevin Gill.

In September, NASA announced that the Curiosity rover found remnants of an ancient stream bed on Mars—evidence that our red neighbor was, at one point, a blue planet covered in water. Now, Kevin Gill, a software engineer, has given us a vision of what a watery Mars might have looked like.

According to Smithsonian's Smart News blog, Gill used elevation measurements based on the observations of NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to create his vision. But he also took artistic liberties with his creation by exaggerating the topographic features approximately 10 times, choosing the height of the atmosphere and its clouds, determining a consistent sea level, and picking what areas would be covered by forest and desert. "I tried to envision how the land would appear given certain features or the effects of likely atmospheric climate," the engineer writes on his Google+ page. "For example, I didn’t see much green taking hold within the area of Olympus Mons and the surrounding volcanoes, both due to the volcanic activity and the proximity to the equator (thus a more tropical climate)."

To create the deserts, Gill used textures from the Sahara and the sands in Australia, and based the tropical and subtropical greens on the rainforests in South America and Africa. "As the terrain gets higher or lower in latitude I added darker flora along with tundra and glacial ice," he writes. "These northern and southern areas textures are largely taken from around northern Russia."


Photo courtesy Kevin Gill.

Gill hopes that his blue marble version of Mars will trigger the imagination, even if it isn't a totally scientific vision.

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January 4, 2013 - 7:00am
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