Evidence from the Mars Express High Resolution Stereo Camera for a frozen sea close to Mars' equator

Nature. 2005 Mar 17;434(7031):352-6. doi: 10.1038/nature03379.


It is thought that the Cerberus Fossae fissures on Mars were the source of both lava and water floods two to ten million years ago. Evidence for the resulting lava plains has been identified in eastern Elysium, but seas and lakes from these fissures and previous water flooding events were presumed to have evaporated and sublimed away. Here we present High Resolution Stereo Camera images from the European Space Agency Mars Express spacecraft that indicate that such lakes may still exist. We infer that the evidence is consistent with a frozen body of water, with surface pack-ice, around 5 degrees north latitude and 150 degrees east longitude in southern Elysium. The frozen lake measures about 800 x 900 km in lateral extent and may be up to 45 metres deep--similar in size and depth to the North Sea. From crater counts, we determined its age to be 5 +/- 2 million years old. If our interpretation is confirmed, this is a place that might preserve evidence of primitive life, if it has ever developed on Mars.

MeSH terms

  • Exobiology
  • Extraterrestrial Environment / chemistry*
  • Geologic Sediments* / chemistry
  • Ice / analysis*
  • Mars*
  • Photography / instrumentation*
  • Time Factors


  • Ice