Planetary scientists at Washington University in St. Louis and various collaborators have concluded that the Tharsis rise in Mars' Western Hemisphere is key to many of the Red Planet's mysteries, including its large-scale shape and gravity field, and its early climate and water distribution. Roger J. Phillips, Ph.D., Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Director of the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences, and his colleagues suggest that an enormous load of volcanic material emplaced at the Tharsis rise caused global changes to the planet's outer strong layer, or lithosphere, creating many key features in the landscape. Two major ones, the Tharsis trough, surrounding Tharsis, and the Arabia bulge, on the planet's opposite side, are the result of this deformation. These features, in turn, are essential in the development of the Martian valley networks, the most common type of drainage system on Mars. Additionally, water and carbon dioxide released by Tharsis volcanism may have created an atmospheric greenhouse sufficient to warm the surface to above freezing, thus enabling running water to form the valleys.
The above story is based on materials provided by Washington University In St. Louis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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