The red planet may have active volcanoes


A recent explosive volcanic deposition around a crack in the Cerberus Fossae system.
A recent explosive volcanic deposition around a crack in the Cerberus Fossae system. NASA / JPL / MSSS / The Murray Lab

Defects and scars covering the surface of Mars, indicating that the planet was once tectonically active below the surface, forming structures such as valleys and ditches. But most of this activity took place billions of years ago, and now Mars is believed to be largely passive.

New research challenges this assumption by showing evidence that volcanoes could have erupted on Mars in the last 50,000 years. Astronomers at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and Planetary Science Institute looked at data from the Mars orbit and found a recently discovered volcanic bed in the Cerberus Fossae system of the Elysium Planitia area, which they believe is younger than previously found strata.

“When we first noticed this deposit, we knew it was something special,” said study author Jeff Andrews-Hanna opinion. “The precipitate was unlike anything else found in the region or indeed in the whole of Mars, and it was more reminiscent of the features that arose from the older volcanic eruptions on the Moon and Mercury.”

Evidence for the composition of the material suggests that it was formed relatively recently when magma erupted from the surface under the surface due to expanding gases. It would have been a dramatic event, and it could have sent ashes to fly up to six miles high.

“This may be the youngest volcanic stratum yet to be documented on Mars,” said David Horvath, study director. “If we had to pack the geological history of Mars for one day, it would have happened at the very last second.”

The location of the deposit is approximately 1,000 miles from NASA’s InSight Landing Station. InSight uses a seismometer for research marsquakes, and during the observation period it has detected two marsquakes from the Cerberus Fossae area. In addition to certificates of deposit, this suggests that Mars could still have activities beneath the surface that we had not previously known about.

“The young age of this deposit definitely raises the possibility that Mars may still have volcanic activity, and it is interesting that the recent marsquakes detected by Operation InSight are from Cerberus Fossa,” Horvath said.

This new evidence questions the assumption that Mars is passive. There may even be conditions hospitable to life below its surface.

“All of this information seems to tell the same story,” Andrews-Hanna said. “Mars is not dead.”

The study has been published in a journal Icarus.

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