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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
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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.

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

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Parker Solar Probe of NASA Sends Back its First Images

The Parker Solar Probe's first close approach to the Sun will be in November

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NASA
NASA's Parker Solar Probe sends back first images. Flickr

Just over a month into its seven-year mission to touch the Sun, NASA Parker Solar Probe has beamed back the first-light data from each of its four instrument suites, the US space agency said.

On September 9, Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe’s (WISPR) — the only imager on the probe — door was opened, allowing the instrument to take the first images during its journey to the Sun.

WISPR with both its inner and outer telescope snapped a blue-toned, two-panel image of space with stars visible throughout.

While the Sun is not visible in the image, it showed Jupiter.

Launched on August 12, Parker Solar Probe, NASA historic small car-sized probe will journey steadily closer to the Sun, until it makes its closest approach at 3.8 million miles.

“All instruments returned data that not only serves for calibration, but also captures glimpses of what we expect them to measure near the Sun to solve the mysteries of the solar atmosphere, the corona,” said Nour Raouafi, the probe’s project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University in Laurel, Maryland.

NASA
This is NASA’s Latest achievement. Pixabay

While these early data are not yet examples of the key science observations that the probe is expected to transmit in December, it shows that each of its four instrument suites are working well.

The probe also sent data back from its three other instruments on board: ISoIS, FIELDS and SWEAP which are all dedicated to unravelling the mysteries of the Sun.

ISoIS’s (pronounced “ee-sis” and includes the symbol for the Sun in its acronym) two Energetic Particle Instruments — EPI-Lo and EPI-Hi — cover a range of energies for these activity-driven particles.

EPI-Lo’s initial data shows background cosmic rays, particles that were energised and came rocketing into our solar system from elsewhere in the galaxy.

Data from EPI-Hi shows detections of both hydrogen and helium particles from its lower-energy telescopes.

The FIELDS’ four electric field antennas on the front of the probe observed the signatures of a solar flare, while the SWEAP’s (Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons), three instruments caught glimpses of the solar wind.

NASA
Launched on August 12, Parker Solar Probe, NASA’s historic small car-sized probe will journey steadily closer to the Sun, until it makes its closest approach at 3.8 million miles. Pixabay

The Parker Solar Probe’s first close approach to the Sun will be in November.

Over the next two months, it will fly towards Venus, performing its first Venus gravity assist in early October.

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Throughout its mission, the probe will make six more Venus flybys and 24 total passes by the Sun.

The probe is named after Eugene Parker, a solar physicist, who in 1958 first predicted the existence of the solar wind, a stream of charged particles and magnetic fields that flow continuously from the Sun. (IANS)