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The new research, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, provides the best evidence yet that an enormous ocean once existed on Mars. Scientists from the University of Colorado at Boulder, US, based their findings on a study of what appear to be ancient river delta deposits and valley networks. They identified 52 delta regions fed by numerous river-like systems. All lay at about the same height, suggesting that they marked the shoreline edge of a huge river-fed ocean.
The researchers, led by Dr Gaetano Di Achille and Professor Brian Hynek, believe the ocean covered around 36% of the planet and contained 30 million cubic miles of water. They wrote: "We suggest that the level reconstructed from the analysis of the deltaic deposits may represent the contact of a vast ocean covering the northern hemisphere of Mars around 3.5 billion years ago..
"Our findings lend credence to the hypothesis that an ocean formed on early Mars as part of a global and active hydrosphere."