Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mars Express Reveals The Red Planet's Volcanic Past

Date:
March 17, 2008
Source:
European Space Agency
Summary:
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.

This is an image of Daedalia Planum, located 1000 km south of Arsia Mons, a southern volcano of the Tharsis Montes. The image was taken on 19 July 2005, from a distance of 302 km from the surface.
Credit: ESA/ DLR/ FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

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 Universitδt 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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Space Agency. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Space Agency. "Mars Express Reveals The Red Planet's Volcanic Past." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 March 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080314112230.htm>.
European Space Agency. (2008, March 17). Mars Express Reveals The Red Planet's Volcanic Past. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080314112230.htm
European Space Agency. "Mars Express Reveals The Red Planet's Volcanic Past." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080314112230.htm (accessed September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

AFP (Sep. 17, 2014) — NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX on Tuesday to build America's next spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2017, opening the way to a new chapter in human spaceflight. Duration: 01:13 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) — Numerous residents along the East Coast reported seeing a bright meteor flash through the sky Sunday night. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Picks Boeing and SpaceX to Ferry Astronauts

NASA Picks Boeing and SpaceX to Ferry Astronauts

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — NASA is a giant step closer to launching Americans again from U.S. soil. It has announced it has picked Boeing and SpaceX to transport astronauts to the International Space Station in the next few years. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins