Evidence of Thousands of Massive Volcanic Eruptions on Mars
By: April Carson
Over the past 500 million years, scientists have discovered evidence of hundreds of "super-eruptions" of volcanoes in the northern part of Mars' Arabia Terra region. The oddity about this is that there is no other location on Mars with similar volcanic activity.
Violent volcanic eruptions
Volcanoes can erupt with such force that entire oceans of stone and poisonous gases are ejected. These emissions block out the sun and shift the planet's climate for decades. Similar occurrences have been discovered on Mars.
Each of these eruptions, according to geologist Patrick Whelley, who oversaw the data analysis, would have significantly impacted the planet's climate. The expelled gas thickened the atmosphere and stopped the sun from shining. Such a volcano crumbles and forms a huge depression or caldera after ejecting molten rock and gas in a volume comparable to that which exited from the volcano now called La Garita.
"The gas and ash ejected in such a large event could have only been deposited on an area far larger than previously recorded volcanic deposits", said Whelley, who is currently working on his doctorate at the Darmstadt Technical University in Germany.
Do we have the same formations on our planet?
Calderas are depressions on Earth that can be hundreds of kilometers in diameter. Several calderas formed in Arabia Terra were the first indications that volcanoes had previously existed on the planet and could produce super-eruptions.
Previously, these depressions were thought to be craters caused by falling meteors. In 2013, scientists proposed that they might be calderas, noting their imperfect form as well as indications of a wall collapse.
The surface of Arabia Terra
Scientists verified the hypothesis by examining surface rocks in the region of depressions - volcanic ash is a clear indication of their origin. They used previous research that concluded that Arabia Terra's minerals on the surface were volcanic in origin.
Using high-resolution images from the Mars Odyssey and MRO spacecraft, they were able to detect a large number of "fresh" (relatively recently formed) craters within the depression.
Minerals on Mars
The researchers used pictures from a Martian Reconnaissance Orbiter with a compact spectrometer to find minerals on the surface of Mars. Volcanic minerals were found in canyons and craters where the wind was expected to carry ash from volcanoes, having been transformed into clay by water.
The researchers used satellite cameras to create three-dimensional topographic maps of Arabia Terra. When the ash layers were plotted on top of canyon and crater topography maps, the scientists discovered that they had been totally preserved and lay in the same position as when they were still warm.
How many eruptions?
In previous research, the amount of material blasted by a volcano was figured according to the size of the resulting caldera. This allowed scientists to estimate how many eruptions would be required for the discovered ash deposits to thicken to an acceptable degree. According on Whelley, hundreds of such eruptions were expected.
Volcanoes of the same type
While it may be a while before the full story becomes clear, scientists believe that fewer than ten thousand of these volcanoes existed on Mars at some point in time.
On Earth, super-eruptions (the most recent of which erupted in Sumatra 76,000 years ago) are found across the world and coexist alongside traditional ones. The Martian volcanoes are believed to have formed in a similar pattern.
"All of these volcanoes formed at the same time, suggesting that they were all part of some big regional event," says Whelley. "Perhaps it was an eruption that lasted hundreds of thousands or millions of years."
The largest volcano in the Solar System
Olympus is the largest volcano in the solar system, measuring 100 times the volume of Earth's biggest volcano, Mauna Loa. However, only on Arabia Terra have researchers discovered volcanoes that are capable of super-eruptions, and they have no idea why.
"We were really excited when we detected the possible super-eruptions because they were so large and Mars is such a small planet. There just aren't that many super-eruptions on Earth to use for comparison," says Kirsten Siebach, planetary geologist at Rice University in Houston and lead author of the study. "They must be really rare, so that's why we don't see them all over Mars."
Bio-Hack w/ Clint Ober who re-discovered GROUNDING/EARTHING LIVE
About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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