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 New research calculates capacity of North American forests to sequester carbon
16.07.2018 | University of California - Santa Cruz

nachricht Scientists discover Earth's youngest banded iron formation in western China
12.07.2018 | University of Alberta

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microscopic trampoline may help create networks of quantum computers

17.07.2018 | Information Technology

In borophene, boundaries are no barrier

17.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

The role of Sodium for the Enhancement of Solar Cells

17.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>