Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Mars May Be Much Older – or Younger – than Thought, According to Research by UB Planetary Geologist

24.01.2003


Analysis of Martian volcanoes will help determine when Hesperian epoch began


This Martian map shows areas that UB researcher Tracy Gregg finds should no longer be considered Herperian: explosive volcanic deposits (light blue) are much older than the Hesperian epoch, whereas lava flows (red) probably are much younger.



Research by a University at Buffalo planetary geologist suggests that generally accepted estimates about the geologic age of surfaces on Mars -- which influence theories about its history and whether or not it once sustained life -- could be way off.

Funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the research eventually could overturn principles about the relative ages of different areas on the Red Planet that have not been questioned for nearly 20 years.


The findings also could cause scientists to reconsider the use of a critical tool -- counting impact craters created by meterorites -- that geologists use to estimate the age of planets they cannot visit in person.

"This has the potential to change everything we thought we knew about the age of different surfaces on Mars," said Tracy Gregg, Ph.D., assistant professor of geology at UB and chair of the Planetary Geology Division of the Geological Society of America. David Crown, Ph.D., of the Planetary Science Institute, is Gregg’s co-investigator on the grant.

Gregg’s research concerns an area on Mars called Hesperia Planum, which has been used since the 1980s to define the Hesperian epoch, the second of the planet’s three geologic time periods.

But in the past several years, recent analyses of images obtained from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter, (MOLA), the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) and other instruments have led to new estimates for the duration of the Hesperian epoch, ranging from just 300,000 years to 1-2 billion years, Gregg explained.

While other planetary geologists now are attempting to reconcile these two models, she said, her focus is on trying to figure out which surfaces on Mars originated in the Hesperian epoch, research that, in turn, probably will help to further define the duration of the Hesperian epoch.

"For almost 20 years, Hesperia Planum has served as the basic time marker on Mars," said Gregg.

"When we want to identify how old rocks are without the benefit of samples, we count impact craters, the big holes in planetary surfaces that are made by meteorites that crash into them," explained Gregg. "The more impact craters there are on a surface, the older it is."

But during the course of Gregg’s research reviewing images of Tyrrhena Patera, a volcano located in the middle of Hesperia Planum, she began finding deposits from not one Martian geologic epoch but from several.

Gregg made her findings using images obtained from the Viking Orbiter, the Mars Global Surveyor, the MOLA and the MOC. She also will be using data NASA is making available from THEMIS, the Thermal Mapping Infrared Spectrometer, which measures surface temperatures on Mars.

"Hesperia Planum is not one age. Its surface actually is a combination of materials that are very old, materials that are very young and some that are in between," she said, "and the volcanoes there are the reason why."

Gregg recently has demonstrated that two volcanoes in western Hesperia Planum were active during a much longer period than previously was understood and that the products of the eruptions traveled much further, signaling a greater intensity of volcanic activity than originally was thought.

Her findings, she said, are similar to ones made about 20 years ago on Earth, when geologists discovered that Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming was the center crater of an enormous volcano and that its deposits stretched as far as the state of Illinois.

Those findings, she said, changed fundamentally the understanding of volcanic activity on Earth.

In a similar vein, she said, the new observations about the great distances traveled by deposits of Martian volcanoes and their influence on the age of surfaces may cause a similar reconsideration of understanding of the history of Mars.

"I think that we are about to discover that Hesperia Planum, this surface that has acted as a basic time marker for Mars, has a very different age than we thought," she said. "If it turns out it’s much older than we thought, then it means that the system shut down a lot earlier and the chances of finding active living organisms on Mars are much slimmer.

"If, on the other hand, it turns out to be much younger, then it means Mars still may be volcanologically active, and if it is, that increases the possibility of extant life on Mars."

Contact: Ellen Goldbaum, goldbaum@buffalo.edu
Phone: 716-645-5000 ext 1415
Fax: 716-645-3765

Ellen Goldbaum | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.buffalo.edu/news/fast-execute.cgi/article-page.html?article=60460009

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Sediment from Himalayas may have made 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake more severe
26.05.2017 | Oregon State University

nachricht Devils Hole: Ancient Traces of Climate History
24.05.2017 | Universität Innsbruck

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>