The strata extend across the ground of West Candor Chasma inside the immense Martian Marineris Valleys, covering an area of 1.5 by 2.9 kilometers. The complete image, from the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft, shows more than 100 individual beds.
Each surprisingly uniform layer is smooth and hard enough to form steep edges, and is 10 to 11 meters thick. Some of these regions formed by strata may be 3.5 billion years old.
On planet Earth, structures by strata like these are formed from sediments deposited over time by large bodies of water. Similarly, stratified Mars beds can be sedimentary rocks formed in ancient lakes and seas.
However, researchers warn that other extraordinary Martian processes may be responsible for stratification. Did life arise on ancient Mars? Because of its possible association with water, a first location for future searches for fossil remains of Martian life, would be located in these layers of Mars.
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