Mars may still be volcanically active, study finds - Space.com
May 11, 2021 1 min, 35 secs

Evidence of what may be the youngest eruption seen yet on Mars suggests the Red Planet may still be volcanically active, raising the possibility it was recently habitable, a new study finds.

"This being the youngest documented volcanic eruption on Mars, the potential that Mars could potentially be volcanically active at present is exciting," study lead author David Horvath, a planetary scientist now at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, told Space.com.

Specifically, this deposit looked unlike anything else found in the region, or indeed on all of Mars, Andrews-Hanna said.

However, this newfound eruption looks different — it appears to be a relatively fresh deposit of ash and rock on top of surrounding lava flows.

This volcanic deposit may be the most recent seen yet on Mars, the scientists noted.

The newfound volcanic deposit is located about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from NASA's InSight lander, which has investigated tectonic activity on Mars since 2018.

One potential mechanism driving this eruption was gases trapped in magma, said study co-author Pranabendu Moitra, a research scientist at the University of Arizona.

Intriguingly, this newfound eruption also happened only 6 miles (10 km) from the youngest large impact crater on Mars — a meteor crater 6 miles (10 km) wide named Zunil?

"The ages of the eruption and the impact are indistinguishable, which raises the possibility, however speculative, that the impact actually triggered the volcanic eruption," Moitra said in the statement.

The collision that created Zunil could potentially have shaken Mars like an earthquake, triggering an eruption, Moitra suggested!

"To be clear, we cannot state that the eruption was triggered by an impact — only that the timing and magnitude are right," Andrews-Hanna said.

"This does not necessarily confirm past life on Mars, but does imply an environment conducive to habitability," Horvath said.

The big question the scientists now have, Andrews-Hanna said, is "why is this particular area such a hotspot for activity on Mars?".


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