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By MATT CRENSON, AP National Writer
Photographs taken by a spacecraft orbiting Mars indicate that active volcanoes may still exist on the red planet, further eroding its image as a dead world and offering prime sites to prospect for signs of Martian life.
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Images from the European Space Agency's Mars Express Orbiter indicate geologically recent volcanic activity in the summit craters of five Martian volcanoes, with some areas showing activity as recently as 4 million years ago. Though long in human terms, 4 million years amounts to the most recent 1 percent of Martian history — a strong suggestion that the planet retains a capacity for volcanic activity.
with some areas showing activity as recently as 4 million years ago
Actually there hasn't been much tectonic activity in Mars' past when volcanoes were active.
Originally posted by SpookyVince
I believed that volcanic activity and tectonic activity were closely tightly linked things, and thus, that no tectonic activity meant no volcanic activity...
The large shield volcanoes on Mars resemble Hawaiian shield volcanoes. They both have effusive eruptions which are relatively quiet and basaltic in nature. Both have summit pits or calderas and long lava flows or channels. The biggest difference between Martian and Terrestrial volcanoes is size. The volcanoes in the Tharsis region are 10 to 100 times larger than those on Earth. They were built from large magma chambers deep within the Martian crust. The Martian flows are also much longer. This is probably due to larger eruption rates and to lower gravity. One of the reasons volcanoes of such magnitude were able to form on Mars is because the hot volcanic regions in the mantle remained fixed relative to the surface for hundreds of millions of years. On Earth, the tectonic flow of the crust across the hot volcanic regions prevent large volcanoes from forming. The Hawaiian islands were created as the Pacific plate moved northwest. These volcanoes have a relatively short life time. As the plate moves new volcanoes form and the old ones become silent.
Originally posted by Rock Hunter
jazzgul: This is not "recent", it has been known for a long time that mars once had active volcanoes. But it does not anymore, whoever wrote this article does not know what they are talking about at all. "Strong suggestion", what a load of rubbish. 4 million years is not recent, Mars is believed to be about 4.5 billion years old.
Maybe it would be an idea to think twice before some thing like this is posted.
Volcanos eject water and atmospheric gases, recycle mineral nutrients and reshape landscapes. The discovery once again raises the possibility that life might survive on Earth's colder, smaller, dustier neighbour.
"A year or two ago any planetary scientist I know would have said no, Mars has been quiet; it is no longer geologically active," said Alan Moorhouse, of the European spacecraft operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany.
"To find that there has been volcanic activity as recently as 2 million years ago is astounding. In geological terms, 2 million years is yesterday. Anything that happened yesterday can happen again today."
"While Olympus Mons is dormant today, volcanologists are not entirely convinced more isn't going on geothermally on Mars. "If you'd asked me [if there were not active surface volcanoes] 10 years ago--or even 5--I might've said yes," said Gregg. "Now I'm not so sure."
On Mars, "where would I look for recent volcanic activity? Depends on how you want to define it on Mars," said Gregg. "I strongly suspect there are still molten (or at least mushy) magma bodies beneath the huge Tharsis volcanoes , and beneath Elysium Mons ."
"But the youngest surficial activity discovered to date (and it's probably 1 million years old, which would be considered quite young, and possibly 'active' on Mars) is in a region that contains no large volcanic structures of any kind," said Gregg. "Instead, there are cracks in the ground, and a few low-lying volcanoes that can't even be seen except in the high-resolution topography (they are too subtle for imagery to reveal). This area is called Cerberus Fossae ."