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Relevance of Oil and Gas Exploration Activities for Planetary Science: The Martian Ocean Hypothesis Case Study


The statement that petroleum and planetary Geology are disciplines that do not have much in common is one that would not cause too much of an outrage among geoscientists. However, knowledge derived from interpretation of terrestrial deep-water systems using three-dimensional seismic data has proven to be useful for the establishment of new analogies that support the existence of a late Hesperian – early Amazonian Martian ocean. These terrestrial/Martian analogies include striking similarities between MTD erosional-shadow remnants and teardrop-shaped islands in the downstream end of outflow channels, deep-water polygonal fault systems and large-scale polygonal terrains in the northern plains of Mars, submarine mud volcanoes and high-albedo mounds in Acidalia Planitia; and most recently the reported similarities between MTD megablocks and boulders of the Vastitas Borealis Formation. The potential existence of a Martian ocean will be a topic of debate for many years to come. In an increasingly data rich environment, where remote information from a multitude of Martian missions and instruments is constantly pouring into the planetary Geology community, we need to ensure that proper data integration with a wide range of disciplines is achieved. This work showcases some of these terrestrial/Martian analogies and also proposes a way forward to increase collaboration between the petroleum and planetary Geology communities.