Conventional models of Mars, based on measurements by initial Mariner unmanned spacecraft, found an arid, apparently ancient environment without current liquid water. This prompted subsequent, highly negative assessments regarding Mars’ history, and the difficulty for the origin and/or evolution of higher forms of life. Later, the unmanned Viking missions (as well as the 1997 Pathfinder Lander) seemed to confirm this barren model.


Complex, sometimes contradictory geologic theories to explain this desolate Mars environment have been proposed, based on a wide variety of observed surface phenomena and features. A new model that reconciles major puzzling contradictions among past models is now put forth, using new observations from MGS high-resolution images of Mars and a reevaluation of certain Viking era experiments.


Small-scale surface features are identified which, it is proposed, are the direct product of wide spread ancient and recent bursts of subsurface liquid water. These water “stains” are shown to cluster (beyond statistical chance) in an unmistakable tidally-determined, bi-modal distribution on the planet: centered near the Tharsis and antipodal Arabia “bulges.”


A revaluation of Mars ancient history is therefore proposed, suggesting that Mars (well after solar system formation) was captured into synchronous orbital lock with a larger planetary companion (“Planet V”), accounting for the clustering of present day water bursts around the former beds of two bi-modally distributed “Mars ancient oceans” as a direct result. The current Tharsis and Arabia mantle uplifts are shown to be an inevitable additional fossil signature of such former tidal stresses, induced by a close gravitational relationship with Planet V.


Other heretofore inexplicable Martian surface features are shown to be consistent with such a simple "tidal model":

  • Valles Marineris (as an eroded ancient tidal bore, formed immediately post-capture)

  • the presence of the extremely flat terrain covering the northern hemisphere (via deposited sediments from the once tidally supported oceans, when released)

  • the current trench or "moat" around the Tharsis bulge (from relaxation of Tharsis back into the mantle, after tidal lock was broken)

The long-mysterious “Line of Dichotomy” is explained as a remnant of a “blast wave” of debris from this sudden severing of the former orbital lock relationship with Planet V, due to either a catastrophic collision or explosion.


Chemical signatures of this extraordinary destruction event on Mars,

  • are shown to be consistent with the model

  • including the distribution of olivine preferentially below the line of dichotomy

  • the presence of primitive mantle and core materials such as iron and sulfur in unusual abundance on Mars surface

  • the concentration of proposed “water stains” in areas bereft of olivine

Mars unusual magnetic field “striping” is now shown to be another unique southern hemisphere signature of this destruction event, caused by standing P and S waves reverberating through the planet’s crust as a result of the massive simultaneous impacts from Planet V debris. Recently published research showing unprecedented outflow channels from the Tharsis and Arabia bulges are shown to be consistent with the sudden relaxation of the two tidal oceans, as is the sculpting of huge amounts of material by fluvial processes north of the Arabia bulge.


Two possible mechanisms for the destruction of Planet V and the breaking of this tidal lock are outlined. Finally, a new timeline for Mars geologic evolution is proposed that is consistent with these observations, placing these events between capture ~500 MYA and the destruction of Planet V at 65 MYA.

Back to Contents





Man’s fascination with Mars has led to many fanciful and romantic notions about the planet’s genesis. Early popular (and even some scientific) speculations focused on a planet populated by exotic creatures if not warring advanced civilizations; these were based in large part on Lowell’s turn-of-the-Century model of a harsh and frigid Mars, one that was still habitable, though dying.


It was not until the 1964 Mariner 4 mission that the general public and the scientific community got their first close-up view of the real Mars -- as Mariner 4 flew by at a distance of 6,118 miles. The 21 images telemetered back to JPL surprisingly revealed a cratered terrain more akin to the lifeless lunar surface than anything on Earth. With these first insitu spacecraft Mars data, hopes for finding anything approaching another “Earth” elsewhere in this solar system were permanently dashed. Subsequent missions confirmed that the Martian atmosphere was much too thin and the temperatures too low to allow for the presence of surface liquid water, eliminating almost any remaining hope of finding current life.

Eleven years later, biology experiments conducted in 1976 by the Viking Landers (including one termed the Labeled Release Experiment, or LRE), produced positive results for life bearing organisms in the samples.1 However, these findings were directly contradicted by other instruments’ results, which indicated that the biology data were “false positives,” generated by a non-biological chemical reaction with the Martian soil.2


Among the principal reasons cited for consensus against the LRE was the absence of available liquid water on the Martian surface – a key prerequisite for life. This general dismissal of the LRE results was immediately challenged by the LRE’s Principal Investigator, Gilbert Levin. Levin3 showed that liquid water could flow on the present day Martian surface, if the available water was restricted to the lower 1-3 km of atmosphere, rather than being evenly distributed throughout its depth. Meteorological data from Mars Pathfinder later confirmed the Levin model for atmospheric water distribution.4


One remarkable development in this regard has been the rediscovery of 25-year-old “lost” NASA data from Levin’s own experiment. Joseph Miller, a neurobiologist at the University of Southern California, recently presented evidence that the radioactive CO2 release that was the heart of Levin’s experiment exhibited a clear 24.66-hour Martian diurnal cycle – precisely the circadian rhythm to be expected of living Martian microbes in the soil.5 If confirmed, this would strongly indicate current microbial organisms on Mars – despite a quarter-century of disclaimers and the apparent dearth of liquid water.

In striking contrast to the current apparent aridity of Mars, analysis of images from Mariner 9 and Viking’s later Orbiters did reveal evidence of large and catastrophic ancient water flows on Mars. They also revealed evidence of a violent geological past -- with huge volcanoes, extensive cratering in the southern hemisphere, and a massive canyon system (Valles Marineris) stretching almost one-quarter of the way around the planet.

Despite evidence of wide-spread water flows on Mars, the general scientific consensus now is that any liquid water on the planet has been confined to the very distant past (circa 3 plus billion years -- GYA), when a much denser atmosphere allowed it to flow freely across the surface. The presence of large numbers of eroded craters in the south is cited as proof that the planet has been geologically dead for at least 3 billion years -- the time since the last “heavy bombardment” of the inner solar system.6

Figure 1

MOLA colorized image of Mars showing the heavily cratered southern highlands (yellow and orange) and the smooth,

sparsely cratered northern lowlands (blue and green).

Other surface features present more difficult problems for geologists. There are vast differences in crater densities between the northern and southern planetary hemispheres. In the North, medium-sized craters are rarely seen, with significant distances between them. This is in distinct contrast with the South, where craters are so numerous that they overlap each other, making it difficult to distinguish between individual impacts.


This stark difference is mysteriously emphasized by a “Line of Dichotomy”: a separation line running around the circumference of the planet at about a 35-degree angle to the Equator. The southern, heavily cratered side of the line, is also (mysteriously) nearly 30 kilometers (on average) higher than the northern sparsely cratered lowlands.

Somewhat limited by existing theories of solar system formation, planetary geologists have tried to explain these major discrepancies on Mars in terms of familiar models. Since the northern hemisphere accounts for 50% of the land mass but only 7% of the craters, the latest idea is that Mars must have lost its “primordial crust” in the northern hemisphere to an ancient period of “vigorous convection and high heat flow” 7 early in Martian history, at a time well after the last heavy bombardment period.


However, the lack of smaller craters on the northern plains (based on relative dating of similar cratering statistics from the Moon) paradoxically implies a relatively recent date for this proposed “event.”

Back to Contents



An Alternative Model of Solar System Evolution


In 1978, Naval Observatory astronomer and celestial mechanics expert, Thomas Van Flandern, put forth the idea (based on an original model by Olbers) that a relatively recent “exploded planet” in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter was responsible for the origins of most comets and asteroids in the solar system.8


This notion, called the Exploded Planet Hypothesis (EPH)9, has found little support in the planetary science community, but its lines of evidence since its initial publication over twenty years ago have become increasingly compelling. Part and parcel to this hypothesis is the idea that half Mars visible surface was devastated by this proposed explosion event, neatly accounting for the cratering dichotomy between the northern and southern hemispheres, and the loss of a once dense and possibly life sustaining atmosphere.

More recently, writer Graham Hancock has popularized an alternative catastrophic theory, which supports the conventional view that the north was stripped of several layers of primordial crust.10 Hancock argues that a large comet or planetoid somehow wandered into the Roche limit zone of Mars and was drawn into the planet in the Hellas basin, effectively tearing away the older surface of the northern hemisphere via secondary bombardment, and depositing the remnants of its shattered bulk into the southern highlands.


Hancock’s idea is based on Donald W. Patten and Samuel L. Windsor’s research,11 who surmise that this object was in fact a “rogue planet” they call “Astra,” described in their book “The Scars of Mars.” There are however numerous problems with the “Astra” concept – for instance, it cannot account for the presence of the asteroid belt, while the EPH does so intrinsically. The authors of this paper believe that the EPH is the much stronger hypothesis (if appropriately modified), and that it has already demonstrated a capacity to survive serious falsification efforts, qualities not shared by “Astra.”

Back to Contents



Extension of the EPH


Recently, Van Flandern has extended the EPH to include the notion that several “planets” (Pluto, Mercury, and Mars) are actually former moons of current or destroyed planets. Evidence to support this hypothesis is extensive, but for our purposes we will focus exclusively on the evidence for Mars. Of these lines of evidence, we will address here only a few as relevant to our proposal. A more complete analysis will be left to a follow–on paper.


Some of the evidence, as compiled by Van Flandern:

  • Mars is much less massive than any planet not itself suspected of being a former moon

  • The orbit of Mars is more elliptical than any other major planet (Pluto notwithstanding)

  • Its spin is slower than larger planets, except where a massive moon has intervened

  • It possesses a large offset of center of figure from the center of mass

  • The shape is not in equilibrium with its current spin

  • The “crustal dichotomy” boundary is nearly a great circle

  • The northern hemisphere has a smooth, 1-km[sic]-thick crust; the southern crust is over 20-km thick

  • Crustal thickness in the south decreases gradually toward the crustal dichotomy boundary

  • Lobate scarps occur at the boundary divide, compressed perpendicular to the boundary

  • Huge volcanoes arose where uplift pressure from mass redistribution is maximal

  • A sudden geographic pole shift of order 90° occurred

  • Much of the original atmosphere has been lost

  • A sudden, massive flood with no obvious source occurred

  • Xe129, a product of nuclear fission, has an excess abundance on Mars

Previous to this, Dorman & Woolfson (1977), writing in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, resented a model called “the Capture Theory of Planetary Formation.” They proposed that Mars was once an original (not captured) moon of one of two colliding “protoplanets” in the early accretion solar system phase.12


They even provided one specific piece of evidence to support their idea that Mars began as such a satellite: Mars density is much closer to that of some of the Galilean satellites than it is to Venus, the least dense inner planet. This implies a genesis more in common with Io, Europa and Earth’s Moon than with the terrestrial planets.

To quote Woolfson (1984):

“As part of the [Capture Theory] scenario, it has been suggested that Mars was originally a satellite of one of the colliding planets. The densities of the terrestrial bodies and some larger satellites are shown in support of this suggestion (Figure 2). Connell & Woolfson (1983) have ascribed the hemispherical asymmetry of Mars, like that of the Moon, to abrasion by high-speed ejecta from the planetary collision of that face of the satellite turned toward its primary.

This will give rise to a thinning of the crust and for Mars such features as the centre-of-mass centre of figure offset are well explained by this. If Mars as a satellite was in synchronous rotation about its primary then this mechanism would suggest that its spin axis should be contained in the plane of asymmetry, but it is actually 55 degrees [the 35 degree line of dichotomy, minus 90 degrees] to that plane [emphasis added].”

Figure 2

Terrestrial planets and larger satellites listed according to density.

Mars is much closer to Earth’s Moon, Io, and Europa in density than it is to Venus, the first major terrestrial planet listed.


Van Flandern’s EPH Model proposes that there were formerly two massive planetary bodies in the current orbits of Mars and the Asteroid Belt, respectively. Both exploded. The first (Planet K) detonated in the orbit of the current Belt “several hundred million years ago.” The second (Planet V) exploded near the present day orbit of Mars, some 65 million years ago (MYA). In Van Flandern’s theory, additional impact damage was done to Mars when a much smaller second former moon of Planet V exploded in Mars vicinity 3.2 MYA.


In our modification of the EPH, we will show that it is not necessary to invoke a literal planetary “explosion” to produce all the subsequent effects Van Flandern has proposed, including the formation of asteroids and comets, and the escape of most of the remaining mass from solar influence. In doing so, we will draw upon new data not available when Van Flandern originally formulated his EPH ideas, specifically, observations of certain Extra Solar planets that follow orbits similar to what we are proposing led to Mars initial capture as a satellite, and then the destruction of its “foster parent,” Planet V.

Back to Contents



The relevance of water


If Mars, prior to its capture (in our model) formerly had a denser atmosphere that provided for liquid water on the surface, it is likely that this water – dependent on the amount -- was distributed in lakes or oceans, much as it is here on Earth. If this was the case, there should still be pockets of this water trapped beneath those former lake or ocean beds, relatively close to the surface, dependent on how long ago the water actually flowed. If extensive “fields” of this frozen or (sometimes) liquid water were discovered near the surface, this would strongly imply such former “lakes” or “oceans” were the source.

Besides Levin’s atmospheric model, the best evidence for current liquid water near the surface of Mars (until recently) was provided by Dr. Leonard Martin of the Lowell Observatory. Martin, in 1980, compared two images of Mars taken from the Viking Orbiters that clearly showed an erupting water spout.13 This implied active geothermal heating of a source of water not too far below the current Martian surface.

In June 2000, Michael Malin and Ken Edgett of MSSS (Malin Space Science Systems) published a paper in Science14, proposing that grooved features on cliffs and gullies on Mars were fossil evidence of prior erosive runoff from liquid water. They placed the events as recently as 1 MYA, but conceded the bursts could also include present day occurrences.

Figure 3

Proposed fossilized water runoff channels.


In 1998, one of a growing number of “independent researchers,” Byran Butcher, noticed and published on the Internet a curious “dark area.” He casually suggested it might be “a coffee stain, water, or a shadow.”15 In July 2000, the authors published a much more specific model, based on an MOC image of an unusually dark, highly elongated “stain” emanating from an exterior point source on a crater wall, proposing that it was a current water flow consistent with the model Malin and Edgett had put forth a few days earlier.16


They quickly found numerous additional examples.

Figure 4

Proposed point source liquid water burst image from MO4-00072


Subsequent to this, Palermo, England and Moore also found that surface “stains” were inconsistent with aeolian features, mass wasting or other non-fluvial processes.17 At the suggestion of one of the authors (Hoagland), Palermo et-al then proceeded to systematically map the locations of these “seep” images relative to Mars surface coordinates, to see if there was a global pattern to their distribution. As a control, they also mapped randomly-selected “non-stain” images until a representative and statistically valid sampling had been completed.

Immediately, two striking global patterns emerged: both pointing to present day liquid water as a source of the “stains” or “seepages.” In the first pattern, the map showed that seepage images seem to appear preferentially near equatorial latitudes, mostly between 30 degrees North and South; none were found above 40 degrees North and South. This implies that the phenomenon is restricted to warmer areas of Mars, which would be expected if these were truly water flows. An equatorial pattern is also inconsistent with the “dust avalanche” model put forth by Malin and NASA as an explanation for these features.18

Figure 5

Map showing flow image distribution.


The second, more important pattern discovered was that the water flows seemed to cluster preferentially around two pronounced geological features on the Martian surface: the Tharsis and Arabia mantle uplifts (“bulges” -- Figure 5). The theoretical factors behind this second (and very pronounced) bimodal “stain” distribution pattern are the primary subjects of this paper.

Back to Contents



Mars as a Tidal Locked Moon of a Companion Body


The authors are proposing in this paper that Mars, at some point earlier in solar system history, was captured by one of two larger planetary bodies orbiting near the present day orbit of Mars. This scenario is an extension of the Capture Theory model of solar system formation put forth by Dorman & Woolfson (1977), as well as Van Flandern’s Exploded Planet Hypothesis (1978). It is also based on current observations of significantly elliptical orbits for many newly-discovered Extra Solar planets around nearby stars, as reported by Butler, et-al.19

One relevant example is the Jupiter-massed planet orbiting the nearby K-type star, Epsilon Eridani. With an orbital period of 6.9 years, an orbital eccentricity of 0.6, and an average distance from its star of 3.4 astronomical units (AU), this planet’s orbit would take it as far out as Jupiter and as close as Mars if it orbited in our own solar system.20

It is our proposal that two previous planets in the vast “gap” between the current orbits of Jupiter and Mars, with orbital eccentricities far less than the Epsilon Eridani planet, after several billion years were gradually perturbed into a series of close encounters. This eventually resulted in the low-probability but possible “three-body capture” of a third object, the formerly freely orbiting Mars, and millions of years later, the actual collision of the two larger planets. As noted, such theoretical former solar system members have been referred to as “Planet K” and “Planet V” in Van Flandern’s original EPH model, the latter estimated to possess approximately 4-5 Earth masses.

We propose that, like theoretical models invoked now to explain some Extra Solar System observations of formerly interacting planets,21 a rare multi-planet encounter occurred late in solar system history between two planets formerly occupying the current gap between Jupiter and Mars: two massive terrestrial planets termed “K” and “V.” As a result, Mars was robbed of a critical portion of its solar angular momentum, allowing capture in an extreme elliptical orbit as a new satellite of Planet V.

An alternative scenario involves only one former solar system member – Planet V.

Given the parameters of existing solar system members -- distance, density, and mass, especially Mars’ low density compared to the other terrestrial planets (Figure 2) -- it seems reasonable to assume that if two additional Earth-massed planets had formed between Jupiter and Mars, they would have incorporated significantly more water than did Earth. And, given the increased likelihood of multiple glancing collisions in the early planetesimal phase for this region of the solar system,22 they probably possessed multiple natural satellites as well.


An encounter of Mars with such a system, billions of years after its formation (as we are proposing), would thus have a reasonable probability of encountering a satellite as well. This type of encounter has a much higher probability of happening than the previous scenario presented (the three-body interaction of Planet K, Planet V, and Mars).


But, this second type of encounter could also result in Mars being captured by Planet V – via the ejection of one of Planet V’s own moons. Calculations examining similar scenarios have been performed in connection with the anomalous Neptune system – which consists now of a major planet-sized satellite (Triton) in retrograde orbit, and a smaller moon (Nereid) in a highly elliptical one.


This has been viewed for years as prima-facie evidence for a highly unusual Neptune encounter earlier in solar system history with an outside object in heliocentric orbit, which reversed Triton’s orbit and ejected a previous moon from the system entirely. That “escaped satellite” is now known as “Pluto.” 23

Figure 6

Mars captured by the larger Planet V and brought into a tidal lock relationship,

with gravitational bulges developing on opposite sides of Mars, 90 degrees to the spin axis of Planet V.

Bulges precisely correspond to the Tharsis and Arabia bulges, 180 degrees apart.


Regardless of the precise methodology of capture, the subsequent, strong tidal relationship between Mars and the more massive Planet V (Figure 6) would have resulted in a further, rapid loss of Mars spin angular momentum, from a “free” rotation period in solar orbit on the order of ~12 hours down to the presently observed ~24.


This estimate is based on models of Earth’s primordial rotation slowed by early lunar tides ( Figure 7). 24 In the model, inevitable tidal evolution not only ultimately circularized Mars orbit around Planet V, it resulted in Mars finally rotating/revolving around Planet V synchronously, in approximately 24 hours -- with one side always facing Planet V, as Earth’s Moon does today.

Figure 7

Growth increments of fossils and tidal sediments on Earth record
a significantly shorter day as one moves further back in time.


It is the authors’ central proposal in this paper that it was this verifiable “Mars tidal lock relationship” with Planet V that accounts for a host of previously inexplicable and even contradictory Martian surface features, that otherwise will remain perpetually mysterious.

This begins with the otherwise baffling present-day Tharsis and Arabia antipodal uplifts on the planet, which are located precisely 180 degrees opposite (Figures 8 and 9). In this tidal model, the Tharsis “bulge” -- a huge upwelling in the mantle and crust of Mars, unique in the solar system – is explained as a combination of the extended gravitational tidal influence of the larger Planet V acting for a significant period of time on that hemisphere, in concert with pre-existing internal mantle upwellings.

Figure 8

Colorized polar MOLA image (NASA) showing location of Tharsis (~240°) and Arabia (~60°) bulges on Mars, 180 degrees apart around the longitudinal circumference of the planet. Note also Elysium Bulge, roughly 90 degrees from the tidal axis between Tharsis and Arabia.

Figure 9

Colorized Mercator projection of MOLA data (NASA) showing the locations and elevations of Tharsis, Arabia, and Elysium bulges (red is the highest elevation).

As would be expected from such a tidal situation, a smaller but still significant “anti-bulge” would inevitably be raised at the antipodal location to Tharsis -- which accounts for the Arabia uplift precisely 180 degrees around the planet.


All formerly fluid or partially fluid bodies in the solar system, including the inner moons of Jupiter and Saturn, show signs of such tidal evolution (Figure 10). Io, in particular, has significant bi-modal tidal bulges, similar to the model we are proposing now for Mars.25


We additionally postulate that other heretofore inexplicable geologic features, such as Valles Marineris and the Elysium Mons, were also an extended result of this former tidal mechanism.

Figure 10

A typical terrestrial tidal bore wave making its way up a river basin


The authors also propose that, when this tidal lock relationship was severed -- by the events directly leading to the destruction of Planet V -- Mars rotational polar axis obliquity, relative to the plane of its satellite orbit, dramatically shifted.


This sudden obliquity shift, as part of this rapidly timed sequence of events, is responsible in the model for the apparent discrepancy of the “Line of Dichotomy” blast wave being inclined about 55 degrees to that rotational axis -- instead of being focused on the Tharsis region itself (see details, below).

Example of typical anti-podal tidal bulge on Earth

Back to Contents



Original capture model and consequences


After capture, as this close orbital relationship between Mars and Planet V evolved and the orbit circularized over hundreds of thousands or even millions of years, any surface water of oceanic volume would have “sloshed” back and forth across the surface of Mars twice every Martian “day,” just as lunar tides do here on Earth. We assert, based on this intrinsic tidal process, that Mars at the time of capture had to have been a “warm, wet world” with both a denser atmosphere and a copious supply of flowing liquid water, otherwise it would not evidence the major surface signatures of tidal movement we will demonstrate.

But first: as an intrinsic aspect of this model, we begin by proposing that the puzzling “mantle uplift” of Tharsis began long before this dynamic capture sequence culminated. Once Mars was captured and oriented with the pre-capture “heavy side” (Tharsis) pointed “down” (toward Planet V), the uplift process was then further and extensively augmented by the “stretching” gravitational forces of Planet V close by.


Further, we suggest that this process resulted in the relatively brittle crust of Mars weakening at the eastern base of the now stretched Tharsis rise, resulting in a series of radial fissures opening up – one of which was then radically enlarged to become the Valles Marineris canyon system.


In the model, this original tension crack was inevitably expanded by the erosive effects of a massive volume of directed tidal waters – termed a “tidal bore” 26 (Figure 11) -- rushing back and forth (at several hundred kilometers per hour!) the entire ~ 1600 kilometer plus length of the original fissure, twice each Martian day, in direct response to the original spin rate of Mars and the massive gravitational tides caused by Planet V.

Figure 11

Valles Marineris, a heretofore inexplicable trough extending one quarter of the circumference of Mars,

is the largest canyon in the Solar System.

The authors submit that this a fluvial trench generated by tidal bore action during Mars’ “captured satellite” phase.


Before Mars’ tidal lock with the larger planet was achieved, this enormous surge would have flowed, always westward, around the circumference of Mars in the direction opposite Mars spin, until it piled up against the immobile eastern side of the pre-capture Tharsis bulge. At that point, when “high tide” passed, the released waters would have rushed (under Mars gravity) back down the canyon system toward the east, scouring the floor once more, until the next “high tide.”


This almost unimaginable force of rushing water, through an expanding canyon system of parallel fissures eventually opened up by the fluvial erosion, would have recurred twice each Martian “day,” possibly for several million years -- until Mars’ rotation was finally stationary relative to Planet V.


It is our proposal that this “scrubbing action” eventually resulted in a radical deepening of the original narrow cleft to form the present day ~7-km-deep, ~4000-km-long canyon system known as “Valles Marineris” – a system (Figure 12) now stretching one quarter of the way around the planet Mars.

Figure 12

Artists conception of Mars as it might have appeared during its “Garden of Eden” period, after capture by Planet V.


This assumes that Mars, like the other planets of the solar system, prior to its capture had a prograde spin. Thus, the tides induced by Planet V forced the rising and falling waters to always assault the eastern side of Tharsis – which is precisely where Valles Marineris formed.

The newly-found bi-modal clustering of “stains” (current water flows) exclusively in the Tharsis and Arabia regions of the planet by Palermo (2001), 180 degrees apart, is an additional major indicator that this model is correct. This accounts not only for tidal bimodal crustal deformation of the planet, as predicted by the satellite model, but also implies that major quantities of unevenly distributed fluid (water) once also existed on the surface.


Presumably, this water primarily resided after “tidal lock” in two opposing “tidal ocean bulges” – with possible dry land between -- because of the inevitable bi-lobed tidal forces experienced by Mars as an ultimately synchronously rotating satellite of Planet V.

Back to Contents



Long Term Stasis


The evidence argues that, once Mars lost its remaining spin momentum and established this stable synchronous orbital relationship, this was not broken or adjusted significantly until the catastrophic destruction of Planet V. The constant tidal tugging on the two opposing hemispheres of Mars from this synchronous orientation now resulted in a continual uplift of the Tharsis region, and to a lesser extent Arabia, antipodal to the Tharsis rise.


The formerly racing tides would also then have stabilized, and the tidal erosion of Valles Marineris would have totally subsided. At this point, the only additional fluvial erosion processes likely on the planet would have been wind-induced wave action and severe storms. Evidence of the former should still present itself on some key surface features not altered by the subsequent Planet V destruction.


One potential candidate for such erosive signatures is Olympus Mons itself. Olympus Mons rises some 24 kilometers high and measures 550 km in diameter, making it the largest shield volcano in the solar system. According to our model, a significant portion of this volcano most likely stood above the water-line of this ancient “Tharsis Ocean,” and should still display signs of aeolian wave action.

Figure 13

Olympus Mons 3D perspective image showing prominent vertical scarp at the base of the lower flanks (NASA).


Remarkably, Olympus Mons is almost completely encircled by a very steep, nearly vertical escarpment. This scarp ranges from between 2-10 km high,27 indicating that it was carved out over time as the volcano was pulled/pushed upward by the continuing tidal force of Planet V aiding internal planetary uplift. The vertical walls of the scarp suggest that it was created by this proposed aeolian wave action, as it bears a strong resemblance to similarly vertical, wind/wave action features on Earth.


Ironically, this idea was first proposed in a somewhat modified form in 1973, by University of Pennsylvania geologist, the late Henry Faul. Titled romantically “The Cliff of Nix Olympica” (the pre-Viking name for Olympus Mons), the paper was never accepted for publication “because of the paucity of data.” 28 The Viking and MGS missions have now remedied that situation, and we hope that Henry Faul’s remarkable idea is finally given its appropriate hearing.

The “White Cliffs of Dover” (Figure 14) are a prime terrestrial example of such features. These lime-rock vertical cliffs are created by the action of the waters of the English Channel. High winds in the Channel create a constant bashing action on the shore rocks, eventually beating the rocks to a vertical face. Similar features are seen across the Channel on the coast of France.

Figure 14

The White Cliffs of Dover, a vertical, aeolian wave action feature on Earth.

Further evidence that the Olympus Mons scarp feature is due to the wind-driven action of an ocean can be found in the fact that it envelops the entire mountain (Figure 15); if a hypothetical ocean surrounded such a rising tectonic feature, the wind/ocean patterns would be expected to erode a mostly uniform scarp such as the one we see.

Figure 15

Overhead view of Olympus Mons from Mars Global Surveyor. Prominent vertical scarp nearly encircles the base (NASA/MSSS).


It is also likely the scarp was formed after Mars assumed synchronous tidal lock around Planet V, since it does not appear to be a result of directional tidal forces. If the scarp was tidal, it is likely the cliffs on its circumference would be significantly more pronounced on the eastern side.


Intriguingly, Arthur Clarke several years ago created a computer-generated image (Figure 16) depicting precisely such an “Olympus Ocean.” Although projected to a time when humans have terraformed the planet Mars, his depiction – especially the waters swirling around the 22,000 foot-high cliff around the mountain – are eerily accurate to our own model of a former “tidal Mars.” 29

Figure 16

Arthur C. Clarke’s projection of an “Olympus Ocean”

lapping at the 22,000 foot-high-cliffs surround Olympus Mons

Back to Contents