back to article Ancient Mars: Covered with life, oceans, clouds, and imagination

If you've ever wondered what Mars might have looked like in the distant past when it had oceans and a cloud-filled atmosphere, an enterprising geek and digital artist from Nashua, NH, can help. But before we inspect the results of the imaginative Kevin Gill's combination of programming chops and artistic skills, let's take a …


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  1. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    Imaginative, but lovely

  2. John Deeb

    is not

    Not pure speculation. There are several theories addressing the origins and development of life on planets like ours and some do involve (ongoing) exchanges with neighboring planets or being at the receiving end of the same common mechanism. So instead of speculation it's a falsifiable claim backed up by theory and therefore a serious hypothesis and not just speculation.

  3. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Life existed on Mars

    Pure speculation. True (at present)

    Surface water existed on Mars (at some point). Fact.

    Life existed on Mars (in the past) possible.

    What has not changed is Martian gravity (roughly 1/3 g). and the level of Sunlight it has gotten.

    I'd suggest that they would have a major impact on what atmospheric pressure can be retained (and hence things like the boiling point of water) and temperature.

    Start with an arbitrary air pressure and see how if it's retained or decays over time (and if so what to).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Life existed on Mars

      Saying life may have existed on mars at some point in the past is misleading. It gives far more credence to the idea than is warranted by the data.

      How many of the life millions of forms that we know of could survive there if transplanted there?

      Which of the mechanisms for the generation of life from inorganic materials that we have observed on earth have we observed evidence for on mars?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Life existed on Mars

        He said "it's possible". Who would have though it's possible for organisms to live at Challenger Deep, 36,000 ft below the oceans surface, where there's zero light and the water pressure is the equivalent of having about 50 jumbo jets piled on top of you. Or bacteria living in Antarctic lakes that have been covered by ice for thousands of years. Yet they do.

        I'm not convinced that previous signs of life will be found on Mars, but if Mars once had an atmosphere, then surely "it's possible", even if we don't have enough info yet.

        1. t.est

          Re: Life existed on Mars

          Correct me if I'm wrong, but to my knowledge Mars lacks a magnetosphere.

          If that claim is true, I call it impossible for life to ever have existed on Mars without being planted there.

          And any lifeforms that have/had been planted there would not enjoy life for long.

          I'm also doubting that there can exist any other type of life than what we can see on earth, on any other planet. I simply think there are too few chemical elements, to have a different set-up of life than what we find on earth.

          But that is just me. You can ignore that part if you so wish, but just consider what role each chemical element has for making life possible on earth. You'll soon run out of possible puzzles to lay out for an other life form. At least that is what I'm thinking.

          So I say, if there is no magnetosphere, there surely can't have been any life. And any search for it will be futile.

          1. Grave

            Re: Life existed on Mars

            under conditions true to our star system and earth environment this might be true to a certain degree

            but under vastly different conditions (binary star system, etc), no magnetosphere or extremely huge one there might be just right conditions for lifeforms based e.g. on silicon, noble gases, etc

            and if you let your imagination go a bit, even earth and humans might evolve in a very different way, lets say we hit technological singularity and there's no longer need for biological life forms and we continue to evolve in virtual environment :)

          2. annodomini2

            Re: Life existed on Mars

            "Correct me if I'm wrong, but to my knowledge Mars CURRENTLY lacks a magnetosphere."

      2. That Awful Puppy

        Re: Life existed on Mars

        >How many of the life millions of forms that we know of could survive there if transplanted there?

        This is just an educated guess, but I reckon if you transported a few tons of various extremophile bacteria up there, you'd end up with at least one of them (and its various descendants) colonising the whole of Mars in a few centuries. They are some tough buggers, extremophiles.

        A huge ethical dilemma, of course, as we cannot know for sure that no life exists on Mars, and introducing our bacteria could end up being a massive xenocide.

        1. Grave

          Re: Life existed on Mars

          just by sending probes there we might have already introduced terrestrial lifeforms.

          anyway, natural selection at work.

          1. That Awful Puppy

            Re: Life existed on Mars

            I think I recall reading something about all probes being meticulously sterilised for exactly this reason. Of course, I could well be mistaken.

            1. Grave

              Re: Life existed on Mars

              yes thats true, but so many variables are out of our hands

              say some kind of lifeform hitches ride during atmospheric lift and it has very fast life cycle, and some mutations later can survive vacuum/temps/radiation and later on reentry bunch of them mutate just the right way to survive martian ecosystem and thrive on eating iron/co2, poof life on mars originating from earth :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Life existed on Mars

      1. Agreed

      2. Direct me to the evidence!

      According to what I've read the speculated water on mars just seem's to have been of a little naughtier kind of liquid than H2O. But well I guess we're not sure of that either. Do us all a favour, yourself included, point us to the evidence. What I've read may be just some junk too.

      3. Extraterrestrial life hmm, I guess, but on a planet in our universe?

      Statistically the universe is very small to contain many planets with life. Just try to do some of the calculations yourself, it ain't that hard. Winning on a lottery is by far more likely. But then statistics are just statistics, no religion or faith included in them.

      4. Definitely wrong, our sun wasn't even a star at one point.

      5 and 6, that would be an interesting study for sure. If not for anything else to know if Mars could be habitable in the future.

  4. P. Lee

    In other humourous news

    Taking scientific data and adding vast amounts of "we made it up" model data and painting effects to make it look real is tagged as: earth, mars, space and evolution.

    1. Adam White

      Re: In other humourous news

      I particularly liked the "randomly selected sea level" part.

      No magnetics, no tectonics, no surface water, virtually no atmosphere... bit of a dump really. May be good for mountain climbing.

  5. Gav

    Not news

    Amateur artist draws pictures that are, by own admission, widely speculative and purposely exaggerate what little facts are known. This is science news how?

    I mean, they're pretty. But so are many computer generated images in films and the like. And no-one treats them as science.

    And "course" is, of course, spelt with an s.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not news

      This should tell you something about all those who regard every scientist as scientists. And who considers what as a fact and not.

      Then apply it on most of the evolutionists. And you realise it's all emotional, and just another form of faith. Everyone is religious, just the object for worship that changes. But few realises it. Especially if your views happened to be the popular view. Then you getting so much reassurance that you think that your view is the truth, but no, you're just being emotional about it.

      Now and then though someone realises that we humans really know nothing at all. Still that should not stop us from wanting to know more. Ironically though the more we learn the more we realise that we know nothing at all, and that's a fact, and it is a humbling experience.

      Have you had that experience yet?

  6. Poor Coco

    No, they aren’t accurate.

    The colossal features (Olympus Mons and three other Tharsis supervolcanos, Valles Marineris) of Mars were formed after tectonic activity ceased; they certainly would not have had their current appearance in that epoch. They also would have had 1:1 surface terrain, not 10:1! But they are nice pictures.

  7. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    We got some grumpy buggers on here today. It's a fun idea. Does everything in your world have to be absolutely seriously correct?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Please just please, nothing wrong, just separate fiction from facts and treat it as fiction.

      And while your at it start questioning the facts.

  8. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Next picture ...

    ... the night sky with city lights.

  9. Big_Ted

    Obviously got it wrong

    I mean, where's the canals ?

    Even at the scale shown we should be able to see them.......

    1. Moranderin

      Re: Obviously got it wrong

      This was back when Barso- I mean Mars -- had lots of water. There was no need for the canals yet so the artist probably brushed them out of the picture.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    "See that HUGE gouge mark in the surface?

    Well that bit about the garden of Eden - well it's not exactly quite true."

  11. Adam Foxton

    Anyone else

    See the smiley face in the 'Fjords' picture?

    You do now! The colossal formerly-oceanic Face on Mars, they'll call it :D

    1. Jemma

      Re: Anyone else

      ... Thats fine then, will match the Great Stone Ass of Mars on the other side of the planet... wonder if you can get planet size Depends?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The chances of anything coming from Mars

    Was a million to one they said...

    Famous last words.

    I would speculate that if intelligent life ever took hold in the ancient past on Mars, its last act would have been to try and escape to the nearest inhabitable planet.

    0.97 billion years ago, Earth was barely habitable by microbes due to the high temperatures, so it would make more sense to (1) hollow out then colonise one of the moons of Mars ie Phobos, or (2) find a planet elsewhere and travel via 5% C ion drive to get there with long term cryostasis.

    So they might have colonised Tau Ceti or one of the nearest stars with a suitable planet, and then died out or evolved into something else such as a machine intelligence.

    1. Annihilator

      Re: The chances of anything coming from Mars

      Depends on how you define "intelligent life". Life has existed in some form for around 3.5bn years on Earth. Intelligent life has existed for some 500m years, not many of it would have evolved into beings that could comprehend life outside their own planet.

      Who's to say that without a large asteroid impact, dinosaurs wouldn't be the dominant species today and that they'd be just as big and dumb as they were then.

      It's quite easy to suppose that life will pretty much always start given the right conditions (as it did with our planet), it's quite another thing to assume that life will always evolve to a species that has the capability to leave the planet.

      1. MacroRodent

        Re: The chances of anything coming from Mars

        >Intelligent life has existed for some 500m years

        You should drop two zeroes here, and even then it is optimistic (depends on at what point you consider beings in our lineage to start being intelligent). Unless you want to speculate about intelligent dinosaurs...

        1. Ted Treen

          Re: The chances of anything coming from Mars

          "...speculate about intelligent dinosaurs..."

          I wouldn't say John Prescott was acutally 'intelligent'...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The chances of anything coming from Mars

        Someone treating fiction as facts I see.

        Just because some scientist have a strong belief in that the dinos died out due to a asteroid doesn't make it a fact. There are other hypotheses also promoted by other scientists.

        And I just beg you to give us any evidence on your last statement or just quit the crap talk.

        Supposing is not science, but it's the mother of all failures.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Massive fjords

    Clear evidence of Slartibartfast's early work. Probably when he was still at art school.

  14. brain_flakes

    Surely terraformed Mars rather than past Mars

    Surely this is what Terraformed Mars would look like, not past Mars as if you had surface water you wouldn't have all those crisp uneroded impact craters all over the place.

  15. Pomgolian

    Full Marks

    ...especially to someone who allegedly used GIMP to do anything useful. I'll buy that man a beer.

  16. dante999

    I love the dig to 'born again believers' (i.e. "That is of course, if you accept planetary evolution and aren't a "Young Mars" believer") that insist our universe is a mere 6400 years old, plus or minus few years, and based on the Text containing all knowledge.

    Although these images are pure speculations, nevertheless they are based on information we have about our solar system and our planet, therefore they contain details with a degree of probability and not purely science fiction.

  17. solaries

    To start with you would have to turn back on Mars magnetic field then preceed to terra forming. And to build the atmospheric pressure do the first and maybe you would a second habitable world for humans in the Solar system.

    1. MacroRodent

      Turning on Mars magnetic field

      > you would have to turn back on Mars magnetic field

      How would one go about doing that? A giant superconducting coil running around Mars at the equator, turning it into a giant version of the electromagnet everyone has seen demonstrated at school?

      (+ A couple of nuclear power plants just to supply the coil).

      This could provide some nice sci-fi story lines. A bit like the Atmosphere Factory in some Burroughs Mars books - critical for the planet to keep running and so an obvious target for the bad guys.

      1. annodomini2

        Re: Turning on Mars magnetic field

        Smack a dwarf planet into it. E.g. Ceres.

        No where near enough energy in a couple of nuclear reactors for that task.

  18. mfritz0

    Life did and does exist on Mars.

    If you really want to see the evidence. Look at the raw images coming back from the Curiosity rover.

    If you want to see my collection go here.

    Decide for yourself, but I think NASA is lying.

  19. Displacement Activity

    wildly innacurate?

    Wildly inaccurate, possibly.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: wildly innacurate?

      Better than wildly in a curate, I suppose.

  20. Moranderin

    Get some (planetary) romance, people!

    Edgar Rice Burroughs and Leigh Brackett would have loved this.

  21. John 62


    Hmm. Reminds me a little of Planet from Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri.

    10:1 surface details are surely unnecessary even with erosion meaning they were bigger in the past.

    Apparently Mars is actually about as wet as Earth, just all the water is in solid ice and mineral crystals, not sloshing on the surface.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. magnetic field

    Heh.. Handy things superconductors.

    Maybe if the aliens discovered Unobtainium (tm) aka Element 122 which superconducts at 50.8C and has a Jc of something like 1M amps per square centimetre....

    Film at 11.

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