Technology

Mars that survived 500 million years was ‘cooked’ by supervolcano eruptions


They were the most violent volcanic eruptions known to mankind.

Image of some craters in the Arabia Terra region on Mars. Photo: NASA

NASA has officially confirmed that the northern region of Mars has experienced thousands of volcanic “super-eruptions” in 500 million years. These are the most violent volcanic eruptions known to modern science.

Although these “super-eruptions” ended about 4 billion years ago, the evidence that they did occur on Mars is unmistakable.

According to NASA, some volcanic eruptions are so absurdly powerful that they send an “ocean” of dust and toxic gases into the air, almost completely blocking sunlight and changing the climate of an area. planet for decades.

And while examining the mineral composition and topography of a northern region on Mars called Arabia Terra, scientists discovered evidence of thousands of such catastrophic eruptions, also known called a “super-eruption”, more intense than any known volcanic eruption.

Carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapor, and sulfur dioxide (SO2) were pumped into the air in these explosions, which took place regularly for 500 million years, before ending around 4 billion years ago.

NASA research confirms that there were between 1,000-2,000 super-volcanic eruptions that rocked ancient Mars. Photo: Arover

The discovery, first published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in July this year, but recently confirmed by NASA, strengthens our understanding of Mars’ ancient past.

Geologist Patrick Whelley of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, which leads research on the Arabia Terra region on Mars, said: have a significant impact on the climate – maybe the gas escaping makes the atmosphere thicker or blocking the sun and making the atmosphere colder.”

According to the geologist, it is difficult to exaggerate any more about these eruptions. An unimaginable mass of molten rock and gas, the equivalent of 400 million Olympic-sized swimming pools, blew across the surface of Mars and filled the sky with a dense cloud of ash extending thousands of kilometers from the site. Eruptions.

When the most intense phase ended, the entire volcanic reaction collapsed into a giant crater known as a “caldera” (giant crater). We can even see such craters on Earth, and they can grow to tens of kilometers wide.

On Mars, there are seven massive craters in Arabia Terra, hinting at the possibility of an intense and violent past of super-eruptions.

This was originally thought to be a remnant of an ancient asteroid impact on the Red Planet’s surface billions of years ago. But then, in a 2013 study, scientists theorized that these basins are actually giant craters. The key to the discovery lies in the asymmetry of the craters, breaking the circular shape that is commonly thought of from cosmic impacts.

“We read that paper and were interested in tracking it, but instead of looking for the volcano itself, we were looking for ash, because nothing could hide that evidence,” says geologist Whelley written in the research group’s post.

Finally, Whally’s team examined images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Integrated Tracking Imaging Spectrometer (MRO) to analyze the mineral composition of the Red Planet’s surface. With those images, they created a three-dimensional topographic map of the Arabia Terra region, adding mineral data to topographic maps of craters and canyons. All show that the mineral-rich sediments are very well preserved, unaffected by wind and water.

“This is a real signal,” explains NASA geologist Jacob Richardson, who collaborated with Whelley’s team. We really saw what was predicted and that was the most exciting moment for me.”

According to the researchers, this raises another question. Namely, how can a planet with only one type of volcano suffocate an entire region? Earth has also had super eruptions, the most recent (and not the last) erupted 76,000 years ago in Sumatra, Indonesia. But they are scattered all over the planet, and are always near regions where other volcanoes have erupted. It is possible that cluster super eruptions occurred on Earth long ago, but were then physically and chemically eroded, or moved to unobservable locations as the shifting continents.

But whether Earth experiences cluster super eruptions like Mars’s or not, there are scientific adventures waiting for humanity to one day set foot on the cold, ancient world. , beyond the Moon.

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