NASA: Mars Has Thousands of Volcanic Eruptions

The ‘super eruption’ occurred in a region of northern Mars called Arabia Terra.

REPUBLIKA.CO.ID, JAKARTA — NASA scientists have found evidence that thousands of large ancient volcanoes on Mars are erupting. The so-called ‘super-eruption’ occurred in the northern Martian region called Arabia Terra over a period of 500 million years dating to about 4 billion years.

Researchers studying the topography and mineral composition of the region made this discovery, and the news is published in a paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in July 2021.

“Each of these eruptions will have a significant climatic impact (perhaps the gases released make the atmosphere thicker or block the sun and make the atmosphere cooler),” said geologist Patrick Whelley at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, who led the Arabia Terra analysis.

“Mars climate modelers will have some work to do to try to understand the impact of volcanoes,” he said. Seven calderas (giant holes made at the site of volcanic eruptions) are the ‘first prize’.

The calderas were originally believed to be depressions from an asteroid impact, but scientists noticed in 2013 that they had signs of collapse and were not perfectly round.

“We read the paper and were interested in following up, but rather than looking for the volcano ourselves, we looked for the ashes because they couldn’t hide the evidence,” Whelley said.

Worked with Johns Hopkins Laboratory of Applied Physics volcanologist Alexandra Matiella Novak with the team examining surface minerals and drawing from previous work. They had calculated the ash that would fall from a possible super-eruption.

Using images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer, they studied canyon walls and craters from hundreds to thousands of miles away from the caldera, identifying volcanic minerals that were turned into clay by the water.

They created a three-dimensional topographical map of Arabia Terra, and compared the mineral data with the map to see that the ash layer was well preserved.

NASA will use a calculation of how much material will explode from the volcano, based on the volume of each caldera to determine the number of eruptions.

The question of how a planet can have only one type of volcano in one region remains.

“It is possible that super-erupting volcanoes are concentrated in regions of Earth but have been physically and chemically eroded, or moved around the globe as continents shifted due to plate tectonics,” the NASA release said.

“This type of explosive volcano can also exist in the region of Jupiter’s moons or can be clustered on Venus,” he said.


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