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Did tsunamis reconfigure the Red Planet billions of years ago?

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William Ewing
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About 3.4 billion years ago, while the earliest multicelled organisms were busy seeding the evolutionary pathways for life on Earth, Mars was getting rocked by meteor impacts that devastated the planet s northern landmasses with tsunamis so large they dwarf most of those seen on earth during recorded history.

Evidence of two such events was discovered by Alexis Rodriguez, a researcher at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, along with a team of colleagues who found traces of the catastrophe using satellite imagery.

The tsunamis seemingly occurred within a region of the Martian landscape where two major regions — the Arabia Terra highlands and the Chryse Planitia lowlands — bump up against one another.

The main source of contention focuses on the remains of that potential shoreline, which is not visible in all places it should be, and therefore has caused uncertainty among scientists.

Using the help of a Mars-orbiting spacecraft, the team pinpointed evidence in the form of two geological formations that show evidence of both an initial impact-generated tsunami 3.4 billion years ago, which would have dropped massive boulders over 300 miles inland, and another some 4 million years later.

The hypothesis was proposed in a 2010 study, which concluded that high-energy tsunamis would have left a mark on the shoreline.

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William Ewing
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