Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Mars Express reveals the Red Planet’s volcanic past

17.03.2008
A new analysis of impact cratering data from Mars reveals that the planet has undergone a series of global volcanic upheavals. These violent episodes spewed lava and water onto the surface, sculpting the landscape that ESA’s Mars Express looks down on today.

Using images from the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on Mars Express, Gerhard Neukum, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany, and colleagues are discovering the history of the Red Planet’s geological activity. “We can now determine the ages of large regions and resurfacing events on the planet,” says Neukum. Resurfacing occurs when volcanic eruptions spread lava across the planet’s surface.

This work has suggested that the sculpting of the Martian surface has not proceeded in a steady fashion, as it does on Earth. Rather, the team have discovered that Mars has been wracked by violent volcanic activity five times in the past, after the early supposedly warmer and wetter phase, more than 3.8 thousand million years ago. In between these episodes, the planet has been relatively calm.

The five volcanic episodes stretch throughout Martian history, occurring around 3.5 thousand million years ago, 1.5 thousand million years ago, 400-800 million years ago, 200 million years ago and 100 million years ago. Neukum estimates that the dates of the earlier episodes are correct to within 100-200 million years and that the later dates are correct to within 20-30 million years.

The ages have been estimated by counting the number of small craters that appear on the landscape. The idea is simple: the older the surface, the more craters it will have accumulated as meteorites of all sizes have struck over the ages.

There has been a debate recently about the validity of this method. Some researchers believe that the small craters are not produced by incoming meteorites but by chunks of Martian rock blasted over the surface after a single large impact. However American researchers, analysing seven years’ worth of images from the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) on NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor, have found new craters appearing on the surface during that time.

“The present day cratering rate can be calculated from their observations,” says Neukum. It fits very closely with the cratering rate he established from the Mars Express data with Bill Hartmann, Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona, giving him confidence in the estimates.

During these volcanic episodes, eruptions of lava flowed across Mars. The internal heat generated by the volcanic activity also caused water to erupt from the interior, causing wide-scale flash flooding.

As for why Mars behaves like this, geophysical computer-based models suggest that the planet has been trying to establish a system of plate tectonics, as there is on Earth where the crust is broken into slowly moving plates. On Mars, the volcanic episodes represent the planet almost achieving, but not actually attaining, plate tectonics – and these volcanic episodes might not be over.

“The interior of the planet is not cold yet, so this could happen again,” says Neukum.

Far from revealing a geologically dead world, Mars Express is exposing a place of subtle activity that could still erupt into something more spectacular.

Agustin Chicarro | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Mars_Express/SEMCPLM5NDF_0.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun
18.04.2019 | University of Warwick

nachricht In vivo super-resolution photoacoustic computed tomography by localization of single dyed droplets
18.04.2019 | Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter

  • Coolest and smallest star to produce a superflare found
  • Star is a tenth of the radius of our Sun
  • Researchers led by University of Warwick could only see...

Im Focus: Quantum simulation more stable than expected

A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.

Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...

Im Focus: Largest, fastest array of microscopic 'traffic cops' for optical communications

The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...

Im Focus: A long-distance relationship in femtoseconds

Physicists observe how electron-hole pairs drift apart at ultrafast speed, but still remain strongly bound.

Modern electronics relies on ultrafast charge motion on ever shorter length scales. Physicists from Regensburg and Gothenburg have now succeeded in resolving a...

Im Focus: Researchers 3D print metamaterials with novel optical properties

Engineers create novel optical devices, including a moth eye-inspired omnidirectional microwave antenna

A team of engineers at Tufts University has developed a series of 3D printed metamaterials with unique microwave or optical properties that go beyond what is...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

Fraunhofer FHR at the IEEE Radar Conference 2019 in Boston, USA

09.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

New automated biological-sample analysis systems to accelerate disease detection

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

18.04.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

New eDNA technology used to quickly assess coral reefs

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>