Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Mars rocks indicate relatively recent quakes, volcanism, on Red Planet

20.02.2012
Images of a martian landscape offer evidence that the Red Planet's surface not only can shake like the surface of Earth, but has done so relatively recently.

If marsquakes do indeed take place, said the scientists who analyzed the high-resolution images, our nearest planetary neighbor may still have active volcanism, which could help create conditions for liquid water.

With High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) imagery, the research team examined boulders along a fault system known as Cerberus Fossae, which cuts across a very young (few million years old) lava surface on Mars. By analyzing boulders that toppled from a martian cliff, some of which left trails in the coarse-grained soils, and comparing the patterns of dislodged rocks to such patterns caused by quakes on Earth, the scientists determined the rocks fell because of seismic activity. The martian patterns were not consistent with how boulders would scatter if they were deposited as ice melted, another means by which rocks are dispersed on Mars.

Gerald Roberts, an earthquake geologist with Birkbeck, an institution of the University of London, who led the study, said that the images of Mars included boulders that ranged from two to 20 meters (6.5 to 65 feet) in diameter, which had fallen in avalanches from cliffs. The size and number of boulders decreased over a radius of 100 kilometers (62 miles) centered at a point along the Cerberus Fossae faults.

"This is consistent with the hypothesis that boulders had been mobilized by ground-shaking, and that the severity of the ground-shaking decreased away from the epicenters of marsquakes," Roberts said.

The study, by Roberts and his colleagues, will be published Thursday in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets, a publication of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

The team compared the pattern of boulder falls, and faulting of the martian surface, with those seen after a 2009 earthquake near L'Aquila, in central Italy. In that event, boulder falls occurred up to approximately 50 km (31 miles) from the epicenter. Because the area of displaced boulders in the marsscape stretched across an area approximately 200 km (124-

miles) long, the quakes were likely to have had a magnitude greater than 7, the researchers estimated.

By looking at the tracks that the falling boulders had left on the dust-covered martian surface, the team determined that the marsquakes were relatively recent - and certainly within the last few percent of the planet's history - because martian winds had not yet erased the boulder tracks. Trails on Mars can quickly disappear - for instance, tracks left by NASA robotic rovers are erased within a few years by martian winds, whereas other, sheltered tracks stick around longer. It is possible, the scientists concluded, that large-magnitude quake activity is still occurring on Mars.

The existence of marsquakes could be significant in the ongoing search for life on Mars, the researchers stated. If the faults along the Cerberus Fossae region are active, and the quakes are driven by movements of magma related to the nearby volcano, Elysium Mons, the energy provided in the form of heat from the volcanic activity under the surface of Mars could be able to melt ice. The resulting liquid water, they noted, could provide habitats friendly to life.

Notes for Journalists
Journalists and public information officers (PIOs) of educational and scientific institutions who have registered with AGU can download a PDF copy of this paper in press by clicking on this link:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2011JE003816

Or, you may order a copy of the final paper by emailing your request to Kate Ramsayer at kramsayer@agu.org. Please provide your name, the name of your publication, and your phone number.

Neither the paper nor this press release are under embargo.

Title:
"Possible evidence of palaeomarsquakes from fallen boulder populations, Cerberus Fossae, Mars"
Authors:
Gerald P. Roberts: Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London, United Kingdom;

Brian Matthews: Department of Physics and Astronomy, The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom;

Chris Bristow: Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London, United Kingdom and Hyder Consulting, London, United Kingdom;

Luca Guerrieri: Geological Survey of Italy, ISPRA - High Institute for the Environmental Protection and Research, Rome, Italy;

Joyce Vetterlein: Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London, United Kingdom.

Contact information for the authors:
Gerald Roberts, Phone: +44 (0)20 3073 8033, Email: gerald.roberts@ucl.ac.uk
AGU Contact:
Kate Ramsayer
+1 (202) 777-7524
kramsayer@agu.org
Birkbeck, University of London Contact:
Bryony Merritt
+44 (0)20 7380 3133
b.merritt@bbk.ac.uk

Kate Ramsayer | American Geophysical Union
Further information:
http://www.agu.org

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Stagnation in the South Pacific Explains Natural CO2 Fluctuations
23.02.2018 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg

nachricht First evidence of surprising ocean warming around Galápagos corals
22.02.2018 | University of Arizona

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>