How Ancient Volcanoes on Mars Are Rewriting the Story of Earth

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Eridania Region of Mars

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Figure 1. Topographic information are curtained over infrared image information revealing complicated tectonic structures and volcanic deposits in the Eridania area ofMars Warm colors are greater elevations. Credit: NASA/Mars Odyssey/ HRSC

< period class ="glossaryLink" aria-describedby ="tt" data-cmtooltip ="<div class=glossaryItemTitle>Mars</div><div class=glossaryItemBody>Mars is the second smallest planet in our solar system and the fourth planet from the sun. It is a dusty, cold, desert world with a very thin atmosphere. Iron oxide is prevalent in Mars&#039; surface resulting in its reddish color and its nickname &quot;The Red Planet.&quot; Mars&#039; name comes from the Roman god of war.</div>" data-gt-translate-attributes="[{"attribute":"data-cmtooltip", "format":"html"}]" tabindex ="0" function =(************************************************ )>Mars‘s complex volcanism, driven by vertical tectonics, offers insights into ancient crustal recycling, providing brand-new point of views on bothMartian andEarth geology.

(************ )Volcanoes are a typical function on the surface areas of strong worlds within the planetary system, arising from magmatic activity taking place within the planetary crust.OnEarth, volcanism is driven mostly by heat and crustal recycling related to plate tectonics, however(*************************************************************************************************************************** )does not have plate tectonics and the chauffeur of volcanism is not well comprehended.

InsightsIntoMartianVolcanism

Recent research study byProfessorJosephMichalski, a geologist in theDepartment ofEarthSciences atTheUniversity ofHongKong( HKU ), has actually exposed interesting insights into the volcanic activity onMars He proposes that Mars has considerably more varied volcanism than formerly recognized, driven by an early type of crust recycling called vertical tectonics. The findings, just recently released in Nature Astronomy, clarified the ancient crust of Mars and its prospective ramifications for comprehending early crustal recycling on both Mars and Earth.

Stratovolcano in Eridania Region of Mars

Figure 2. Color image information are curtained onto topography to reveal a 3-D view of a big stratovolcano in the Eridania area ofMars Credit: NASA/ESA/HRSC

Rethinking Mars’s Volcanic Landscape

Traditionally, Mars has actually been understood to have big guard volcanoes comparable to those inHawaii However, it was not understood that Mars likewise had the varied, explosive volcanoes that form on Earth due to crustal recycling.

The current research study carried out by Professor Michalski and his global group find a large variety of varied volcanoes in the ancient crust ofMars “We have known for decades that Mars has volcanoes, but most of the recognized volcanoes correspond to large basaltic shield volcanoes similar to the ones that make up Hawaii,” he describes. “In this work, we show that the ancient crust has many other types of volcanoes such as lava domes, stratovolcanoes, calderas, and large shields of ash, not lava. Further, most scientists see Mars as a planet composed of basalt, which has low silica content and represents little crustal evolution, but these volcanoes have high silica content which means they formed from a complex process of magma evolution not known before.”

Vertical Tectonics and Crustal Recycling

The paper recommends that extreme volcanism happened on ancient Mars, triggering the crust to collapse into the mantle, where the rocks re-melted, leading to lavas that have high silica. This tectonic procedure, called vertical tectonics, is assumed to have actually happened on the ancient Earth, however rocks on Earth from that duration (the Archean, more than 3 billion years ago) are extremely customized by later geological activity, so we can not see proof for this procedure plainly on this world. Therefore, checking out other worlds like Mars, which has volcanism however no plate tectonics, can assist expose the secrets of early crustal recycling on both the Red Planet, and by example, on early Earth.

Significance of the Discovery

Professor Michalski concluded, “Mars contains critical geological puzzle pieces that help us understand not only that planet, but the Earth as well. Martian volcanism is much more complex and diverse than has been previously thought.”

“This is a significant discovery because it has revealed that crustal recycling can occur not only in plate tectonic regimes dominated by horizontal movements, but can also occur in pre-plate tectonic regimes dominated by vertical movements. This finding can help earth scientists revolve the long-term controversial issues of how and when felsic continents formed in our planet (Earth),” stated Professor Guochun Zhao, the Chair Professor of HKU Earth Sciences.

Reference: “Diverse volcanism and crustal recycling on early Mars” by Joseph R. Michalski, A. Deanne Rogers, Christopher S. Edwards, Aster Cowart and Long Xiao, 12 February 2024, Nature Astronomy
DOI: 10.1038/ s41550-023-02191 -7

About Professor Joseph Michalski

A Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences and Deputy Director of the Laboratory for Space Research at HKU, he teamed up with coworkers from mainland China and U.S.A. on this research study task. He is a Research Fellow of the Hong Kong Research Grants Council, and winner of a Tencent Xplorer Prize in2023 The financing for this work was supplied by the RGC Collaborative Research Fund.