Tuesday has been generally considered a geologically dead planet, however now an international team of researchers led by the ETH Zurichin Switzerland, reports that seismic signals indicate that volcanism is still play an active role in the formation of the Martian surface, as published in the journal ‘Nature Astronomy’.
The SEIS seismometer
Since 2018, when the mission Vision from NASA deployed the SEIS seismometer on the surface of Mars, seismologists and geophysicists from ETH Zurich have listened to the seismic beeps of more than 1,300 earthquake martians. Time and time again, researchers recorded smaller and larger Martian earthquakes. A detailed analysis of the location and the spectral character of the earthquakes was a surprise, as they point out.
With epicenters originating in the mediations of the cerberus fossaA region formed by a series of rifts, or graben, these earthquakes have a new history that suggests that volcanism continues to play an active role in the formation of the Martian surface.
The international team of researchers analyzed a group of more than 20 Martian earthquakes recent ones that originated in the rift system of the Cerberus Trench. From the seismic data, the scientists concluded that the low-frequency tremors indicate an extremely warm origin that could be explained by the current molten lava, that is, the magma at that depth, and the volcanic activity on Mars. Specifically, to perfect that the tremors are located above all in the innermost part of the Cerberus Trench.
When they compared the seismic data with observational images from the same area, they also discovered darker dust deposits not only in the prevailing wind direction, but in multiple directions that surround the Mantle Unit of the Cerberus Trench.
«The darker shade of the dust means geological evidence of more recent volcanic activity, perhaps in the last 50,000 years, relatively young, in geological terms,» he explains. Simon Staehlerlead author of the paper and senior scientist working in the seismology and geodynamics group led by professor domenico giardini in it Institute for Geophysics of the ETH Zurich.
Mars is the only planet other than Earth where scientists have ground vehicles, landers, and now even drones that transmit data. All other planetary exploration, so far, has been based on orbital images.
«the SIX of Insight it is the most sensitive seismometer ever installed on another planet, says Domenico Giardini. It offers geophysicists and seismologists the opportunity to work with current data that show what is happening on mars todayboth on the surface and inside it», according to Europa Press.
Seismic data, together with orbital images, ensure a higher degree of confidence for scientific inferences. Mars, one of our closest terrestrial neighbors nearbyis important to understand similar geological processes on earth. The red planet is the only one we know of, so far, that has a core composition of iron, nickel, and sulfur that could have ever supported a magnetic field.
Topographical evidence also indicates that Mars once hosted large expanses of water and possibly a denser atmosphere. Even today, scientists have found that frozen water still exists on its polar caps, although possibly most of it is dry ice. «Although much remains to be learned, the evidence for the existence of a possible magma on Mars is intriguing,» he says. anna mittelholzpostdoctoral fellow at ETH Zurich and the Harvard University.
Looking at images of the vast, dry and dusty Martian landscape, it is hard to imagine that around 3.6 billion years ago Mars was very much alive, at least in a geophysical sense. It vomited up volcanic debris long enough to give rise to the Tharsis Montes Regionthe largest volcanic system in our solar system, and at Mount Olympusa volcano with a height almost three times higher than Mount Everest.
The tremors coming from the nearby Pits of Cerberus, named after a creature from Greek mythology known as the hellhound of Hades that watches over the underworld, suggests that Mars not quite dead yet. Here, the weight of the volcanic region is sinking, forming parallel cracks that separate the crust of Mars, like the cracks that appear on the top of a cake as it bakes.
According to Staehler, «it is possible that what we are seeing are the last remains of this volcanic region that was active or that the magma is moving east right nowto the next eruption site.
the latest precedent
The ‘Rover Perseverance’ The NASA obtained samples of rock cores within an area considered by scientists as one of the most promising to discover signs of microbial life on Mars and identified a strong signal of organic matter on Mars: they would be remains of past life on the Planet Red.
The analysis indicated that the samples present a class of organic molecules directly related to sulfate minerals: these minerals, found in layers of sedimentary rock, can provide important information about the aqueous environments in which they were formed. In addition, NASA provides that the samples contain the largest amount of identified organic matter to date during the current mission.
They can also contain other elements, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur. Although there are chemical processes that produce these molecules without the presence of life, some of these compounds are part of the basic chemical components of life. The organic molecules began a diverse variety of compounds, composed mainly of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms, compounds that have already been produced on Mars.
According to a study published last September in the journal ‘Progress of science’, the device called ‘MOXIE’ produced oxygen effectively on the scarlet planet, after seven previous tests. It is an instrument the size of a handbag producing oxygen from the carbon dioxide that dominates the thin atmosphere from Mars and already produces the same oxygen as a tree throughout the day.
volcanoes in the solar system
Research led by researchers from the University of Maryland and the ETH Zurich Institute for Geophysics, in Switzerlandpublished a study last August in the journal ‘geoscience of nature‘ which provides the first scientific proof that crowns in Venus continue to evolve, indicating that the interior of the planet is in full depression.
Venus also has hints of volcanic activity. The surface of Venus is approximately 90% basalt (it is an extrusive igneous rock of a dark color) by experts approximate the volcanic flows that are formed. It is known to have about 1600 volcanoesalthough none of them appear to be currently active.
Besides, Jupiter, Due to its gaseous composition, it does not stand out for its volcanoes, but its satellites do. Ioone of the largest moons of Jupiter, it reaches a rising volcanic activity because it produces rivers of lava, powerful eruptions and volcanic wells.