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Finally The Cause Of Mysterious Martian Rock Formation Discovered

The new finding add to scientists' understanding of Mars's interior and its past potential for habitability

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Finally The Cause Of Mysterious Martian Rock Formation Discovered
Finally The Cause Of Mysterious Martian Rock Formation Discovered, flickr

Explosive volcanic eruptions that shot jets of hot ash, rock and gas skyward are the probable source of a mysterious Martian rock formation near the planet’s equator, says a new study.

The Medusae Fossae Formation is a massive, unusual deposit of soft rock with undulating hills and abrupt mesas.

Scientists first observed the Medusae Fossae with NASA’s Mariner spacecraft in the 1960s but were perplexed as to how it formed.

The current study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, suggests the formation was deposited during explosive volcanic eruptions on the Red Planet more than three billion years ago.

The formation is about one-fifth as large as the continental US and 100 times more massive than the largest explosive volcanic deposit on Earth, making it the largest known explosive volcanic deposit in the solar system, according to the study authors.

“This is a massive deposit, not only on a Martian scale, but also in terms of the solar system, because we do not know of any other deposit that is like this,” said study lead author Lujendra Ojha, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, US.

Volcanic eruption
Volcanic eruption, pixabay

The researchers believe that the new finding could add to scientists’ understanding of Mars’s interior and its past potential for habitability.

The eruptions that created the deposit could have spewed massive amounts of climate-altering gases into Mars’ atmosphere and ejected enough water to cover Mars in a global ocean more than nine centimeters thick, Ojha said.

Previous radar measurements of Mars’s surface suggested the Medusae Fossae had an unusual composition, but scientists were unable to determine whether it was made of highly porous rock or a mixture of rock and ice.

In the new study, the researchers used gravity data from various Mars orbiter spacecraft to measure the Medusae Fossae’s density for the first time.

They found the rock is unusually porous — it is about two-thirds as dense as the rest of the Martian crust.

They also used radar and gravity data in combination to show the Medusae Fossae’s density cannot be explained by the presence of ice, which is much less dense than rock.

Because the rock is so porous, it had to have been deposited by explosive volcanic eruptions, according to the researchers.

volcano
Active volcano, Pixabay

Greenhouse gases exhaled during the eruptions that spawned the Medusae Fossae could have warmed Mars’s surface enough for water to remain liquid at its surface, but toxic volcanic gases like hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide would have altered the chemistry of Mars’ surface and atmosphere.

Also read: Earthquake Then Volcano, There is No Relief For the Hawaii Residents

Both processes would have affected Mars’ potential for habitability, Ojha said. (IANS)

Next Story

NASA Reveals First Person on Mars ‘is Likely to be a Woman’

NASA has come a long way since 1978, when the first six women joined NASA's astronaut corps

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NASA, mars
NASA will also have its first all-female spacewalk at the end of the month, when astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch will get to float around in space. The spacewalk will last about seven hours, according to the US space agency. Pixabay

The first person on Mars is ‘likely to be a woman’, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has said.

“It’s likely to be a woman, the first next person on the Moon. It’s also true that the first person on Mars is likely to be a woman,” CNN cited Bridenstine as saying on a science and technology radio talk show “Science Friday”.

The NASA administrator did not identify a specific person but said women are at the forefront of the agency’s upcoming plans.

NASA will also have its first all-female spacewalk at the end of the month, when astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch will get to float around in space. The spacewalk will last about seven hours, according to the US space agency.

NASA, mars
NASA has come a long way since 1978, when the first six women joined NASA’s astronaut corps. Currently, women comprise 34 per cent of its active astronauts, according to the agency. Pixabay

“So these are great days. We have the first all-female spacewalk happening this month at the end of March, which is of course, National Women’s Month,” Bridenstine said.

Both McClain and Koch were part of the 2013 astronaut class, half of which were women. They came from the second largest applicant pool NASA has ever received — more than 6,100. The most recent class of flight directors was also 50 per cent women, NASA said.

 

ALSO READ: NASA’s Future Scientists Would Likely Be Better Equipped To Study The Lunar Material

NASA has come a long way since 1978, when the first six women joined NASA’s astronaut corps. Currently, women comprise 34 per cent of its active astronauts, according to the agency.

“NASA is committed to making sure we have a broad and diverse set of talent and we’re looking forward to the first woman on the moon,” Bridenstine said. (IANS)