Out of this world: giant supervolcanoes found on ancient Mars
Date published: 07th October 2013
Features typical of supervolcanoes, which erupt suddenly with immense energy and do not leave cone-shaped mountains behind like the more slowly erupting volcanoes on Earth, have been discovered in an area of Mars not previously thought to be volcanic, said Joseph Michalksi of the Natural History Museum in London and the Planetary Institute in Tucson, Arizona.
“The atmosphere of any planet including our own comes largely from volcanic outgassing. If we want to know about the early phase of that we need to know about these early volcanoes and this discovery gives us an early window into that process,” Dr Michalski said.
One of the examples of a Martian supervolcano is the Eden Patera, an irregularly-shaped crater in an area of Mars called the Arabia Terra. Discovering such supervolcanic structures “fundamentally changes how we view ancient volcanism on Mars”, said Dr Michalksi, who led the study published in the journal Nature.
“Many Martian volcanoes are easily recognised from their massive shield-shaped structure, similar to what we see in Hawaii. But, these are relatively youthful features on Mars and we have always wondered where the ancient volcanoes are. It is possible that the most ancient volcanoes were much more explosive and formed structures similar to what we now see in Arabia Terra,” Dr Michalksi said.
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