Scientists discover 2 billion years of volcanic activity on Mars

Feb 4, 2017 12:10 IST

Scientists have discovered evidence of two billion years of volcanic activity on Mars. The discovery was made following an analysis of a meteorite from the planet, which was found in Africa in 2012.

The finding confirms that some of the oldest volcanoes present in the solar system may be found on Mars. It also offers new evidence on the planet’s evolution and gives more insight into its history of volcanic activity.

The study was published in a journal called Science Advances.

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Background
• Olympus Mons with a height of almost 27.3 kilometres is the largest volcano on Mars. It is nearly the triple the size of Earth tallest volcano, Mauna Kea which has a height of 10 kilometres.

• Most of the information researchers have regarding the composition of rocks from volcanoes on the red planet comes from the meteorites found on Earth.

• Analysis of different substances found on the meteorite revealed its age, its magma source, the length of time in space and the time it has spent on Earth’s surface.  

About the Meteorite

• Called Northwest Africa 7635, the meteorite was discovered in 2012 in Africa.

• It was found to be a type of volcanic rock called shergottite.

• Eleven of such rocks with similar chemical composition and ejection time have been found on Earth, indicating a similar origin.

• The meteorites are fragments of rocks that escaped into space and crossed Earth’s orbit after a massive collision on Mars surface hit a volcano or lava plain one million years ago.

While the age of previously analysed meteorites ranges from 327 million to 600 million years, the age of Northwest Africa 7635 is over 2.4 billion years, indicating that it was ejected from one of the longest-lived volcanoes in the solar system.

 

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