Mars, as everyone thinks, may not be a barren and dormant wasteland. Well, a new study claims that the red planet could still have active volcanoes, which could erupt. Earlier, volcanic eruptions were presumed in Mars billions of years ago. But the new study published in Journal Icarus says that the recent volcanic eruptions were only 50,000 years old.
The study notes that if the volcanoes really did erupt in the recent past, then that would have huge implications for the understanding of the planet’s environment. The researchers said that it could even mean that Mars could support life today. Researchers at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and the Planetary Science Institute did the study.
In Mars, big explosions are thought to be rare. The researchers came across an unknown volcanic deposit through the data from satellites orbiting Mars. In most of the volcanic eruptions, lava flowed across the surface.
Lead author David Horvath said that the volcanic deposit that they came across was the youngest volcanic deposit. “This feature overlies the surrounding lava flows and appears to be a relatively fresh and thin deposit of ash and rock, representing a different style of eruption than previously identified pyroclastic features,” Horvath said. “This eruption could have spewed ash as high as 6 miles into Mars’ atmosphere. It is possible that these sorts of deposits were more common but have been eroded or buried,” the researcher said.
The volcanic eruption was 20 miles long and eight miles long wide. Horvath claimed that the young age of the deposit showed that Mars could be still having active volcanoes.
Though speculative, Horvath said that the prospect of recent volcanism raises the possibility of recent — or perhaps even extant — life on Mars. The magma and icy substrate of the region could have provided favourable conditions for microbial life fairly recently and raises the possibility of extant life in this region.
Study co-author Jeff Andrews-Hanna said that the deposits were closely related to older volcanic eruptions on the Moon and Mercury.
The site of the recent eruption is about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres) from NASA’s InSight lander, which has been studying tectonic activity on Mars since 2018. Two Mars quakes have been localized to the region around the Cerberus Fossae and recent work has suggested the possibility that these could be due to the movement of magma at depth…
“The young age of this deposit absolutely raises the possibility that there could still be volcanic activity on Mars. it is intriguing that recent quakes detected by the InSight mission are sourced from the Cerberus Fossae,” Horvath said. In fact, the team of researchers predicted this to be a likely location for Mars quakes several months before NASA’s InSight lander touched down on Mars.