A super volcano or just a hole in the crust of the Red Planet?
Researchers have highlighted the stigma of what could be a Martian super volcano. Despite the fact that frozen and lifeless today, Mars was some time ago a source of volcanic activity – and so far, we grasp very little concerning this phase of its early natural process, affirmed head author Joseph Michalskim, a geologist who works at the Planetary Science Institute founded in Tucson.
Yet such a monster magmatic, capable of upsetting the climate of a planet, had been identified on the red planet. But the study remains speculative.
The Arabia Terra region, in the northern hemisphere, had never been catalogued as volcanic. It is an area riddled with craters.
Scientists estimate so that it is very old and that it dates from the Noachian (between 4.5 and 3.8 billion years). However, some of these craters are unreliable with thousands more in the surrounding area.
Images and topographic data collected by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey, Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Express probes, Joseph Michalski, scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, and Jacob Bleacher from the Goddard Space Centre of NASA, were analyzed in detail one of these ‘intruders’, Eden Patera.
And they noticed that it was not the classic characteristics of a lunar impact crater. High walls, central peak and material ejected during the impact missing indeed.
On the other hand, Eden Patera has everything of a volcanic Caldera, i.e. an inground circular structure, result of the collapse of a volcanic cone on himself after a massive explosion. For them, pyroclastic flows from the explosion probably formed the jagged and rugged structures found all around the Martian equator.
If Eden Patera is the remnant of a volcano, that the team must confirm with lots and lots of other observations, would be one of the largest, if not the largest volcanic eruption that the planet Mars has ever known. It would eject billions of tons of material on thousands of miles away. Throughout the atmosphere, countless dust would have been able to deeply disturb the climate of the time.
But the theory is far from established: “This is serious work but on the one hand, this has already been studied according to data from Viking (which the authors seem to have forgotten), and on the other hand, it is still speculative”, says specialist of geology Martian laboratory for Planetology and Geodynamics of Nantes, Mangold Nicolas.
“Nothing permits us to affirm that it is a volcano that has thrown huge quantities of lava and ash. There are quite a few other alternatives, I am also amazed that they have sent their article in the journal Nature with so few certitudes”, states Mangold Nicolas.
Olympus Mons remains the highest volcano in our Solar System, with an altitude of approximately 23 km. It rose in several million years during the eruptions of stream of lava after stream of lava, continuously. No eruption that it had has been catastrophic enough so that it would collapse on itself.