(ORDO NEWS) — Rumbles found deep inside Mars have given rise to speculation about volcanic activity on the red planet from “possible” to “probable”.
After studying a group of quakes detected by NASA’s InSight lander, the researchers concluded that molten magma is likely still present under the crust of Mars, meaning that the Martian surface continues to form through volcanism to this day.
This is the latest in a series of clues to ongoing volcanic activity on Mars. long after she was supposed to have gone silent.
This could affect our understanding of the planet’s geology and even the search for life, which scientists believe may lurk beneath the Martian surface.Until relatively recently, scientists believed that little was going on deep inside our little red neighbor.
The planet does not have a global magnetic field to speak of; since the magnetic field is generated by internal activity, its absence suggested, well, its absence.
But then science happened: NASA sent the InSight lander, equipped with sensitive seismic detectors, and we found Mars purring and purring with seismic activity—in some cases, startlingly powerful seismic activity.
To date, InSight has recorded over 1,300 earthquakes that have forever changed our understanding of Martian geodynamics.
These quakes can reveal a lot about the internal structure and activity of Mars, and a team of geophysicists led by Simon Stahler at ETH Zurich in Switzerland have just done a thorough study of a group of 20 recent quakes to better understand what is going on in the belly of the Martian beast.
The team found that the data suggests that most of the faults distributed across the surface of Mars are not seismically active. Surprisingly, the cluster seems to come from an area called Cerberus Fossae.
It consists of features called grabens where tectonic activity has caused faults to open, causing blocks of the earth’s crust to slide down between parallel fault ridges.
The low frequency of deeper seismic waves, the Discovery team, may indicate a warm source region 30 to 50 kilometers (18 to 31 miles) below the surface, consistent with molten magma and thus ongoing modern volcanic activity.
In addition, high-frequency quakes appear to occur along the flanks of the Cerberus Fosse graben.
Together, the Cerberus Foss earthquakes represent at least half of the seismic activity present on Mars as a whole.
The team then compared their data with observational images of the Cerberus pits and found deposits of darker dust scattered in multiple directions from a fissure called the Cerberus pit mantle unit. This was discovered last year as evidence of recent volcanic activity on Mars.
“The darker shade of the dust signifies geological evidence of more recent volcanic activity perhaps within the last 50,000 years relatively young, geologically speaking. ‘, says Stehler.
“Perhaps what we are seeing is the last remnants of this once active volcanic region, or magma is moving eastward towards the next eruption site right now.”
Our growing understanding of Mars shows that the planet has changed a lot in its 4.5 billion years of life.
The layers of sedimentary rock and the presence of water minerals suggest that Mars was once inundated with liquid water, implying that the world is far more habitable than the windy red dustball we see today.
Discovering how Mars transformed could help us better understand our world, which is so similar and yet so close to our planetary neighbor.
And this has implications for the search for life in the wider galaxy: knowing the factors that affect habitability or habitability will provide important information for assessing the potential habitability of an exoplanet.
There is also the ongoing question of life on Mars. Scientists believe that there may be lakes with liquid water under the surface. They may also not be there, but if they are, they will need some kind of heat source to maintain a temperature suitable for life. The presence of magma would help to do this.
So the possibility of a sticky center on Mars is definitely tempting, and it seems like the Cerberus fossa is the place to go to figure it out.
“Until now, no other tectonic feature in InSight’s Martian hemisphere has been unequivocally confirmed as seismically active, and only recently…
InSight detected strong marsquakes on the far side, in the southern province of Tharsis,” the researchers wrote.
“Because the quakes were not clearly localized to folded ridges or lobed scarps, i.e. compression sites, Cerberus Fossae provides a unique insight into the tectonics of Mars as a whole.”
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