Dark deposits of dust beneath the surface of Mars provide evidence of volcanic activity

Scientists know that Mars has been volcanically active for a long time, but a recent study showed that there may be magma flowing deep into Mars even today, erupting from a volcano in the past fifty thousand years, according to RT.

A team of international scientists, led by the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich), analyzed a group of more than 20 recent earthquakes, some of which may have been caused by a warm source that can only be explained by current magma.

With this in mind, the group looked at satellite images of the area and found dark deposits of dust more than 18 feet below the surface indicating a volcanic region.

This discovery, if confirmed, would rewrite the history of the Red Planet, which indicates that volcanic activity did not exist at least four billion years ago.

“The darker shade of dust provides geological evidence of recent volcanic activity – possibly within the past 50,000 years – that is relatively young, geologically speaking,” Simon Stahler, lead author of the paper, said in a statement.

The team was investigating earthquakes at Cerberus Fossae, a series of near-parallel fissures on Mars that are formed by crustal rupture faults, using NASA’s InSight rover, which arrived at the Red Planet in November 2018.

Its mission is to reveal how the rocky body formed and evolved into a planet by investigating the internal structure and composition of Mars. It will also determine the rate of Martian tectonic activity and the effects of meteorites.

Previous research has suggested that Cerberus Fossae has been volcanically active for the past 10 million years, but the new discovery could rewrite the timeline.

According to Stahler: “It is possible that what we are seeing is the last remnant of this active volcanic region or that the magma is now moving eastward to the site of the next eruption.”

The study, published in the journal Nature, notes that scientists now believe Cerberus Fossae represents a unique tectonic environment shaped by current magma processes and locally elevated heat flow.

“While there is a lot to learn, the evidence for possible magma on Mars is intriguing,” says Anna Mittelholz, a postdoctoral fellow at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and Harvard University.

The groundbreaking discovery comes just a few months after the Australian National University suggested the earthquakes are caused by a sea of ​​magma in the Red Planet’s mantle.

So far, hundreds of Martian earthquakes have been detected, but Hrvoje Tkalić of the Australian National University and fellow geophysicist Wijia Sun of the Chinese Academy of Sciences wanted to look for earthquakes that might have gone unnoticed in the InSight data.

Using two recently applied unconventional techniques, the duo discovered 47 new seismic events coming from the Cerberus Fossae region.

Most of them resemble the waveforms of two Cerberus Fossae earthquakes, which occurred in May and July 2019, suggesting that smaller earthquakes are related to larger ones.

While searching for the cause of the earthquakes, the team discovered that there was no pattern in their timing, which rules out the influence of the Martian moon Phobos.

“We found that these Mars earthquakes occurred repeatedly at all times of the Martian day, while Mars earthquakes, which have been detected and reported by NASA in the past, appear to have only occurred during the night, when the planet is quieter,” Tkalić said.

Therefore, we can hypothesise that the movement of molten rock in Mars’ mantle is the driver of these 47 newly discovered earthquakes under the Cerberus Fossae region.

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