Near the landing site for NASA’s next Mars rover, a study has found Martian mineral deposit which is thought to come from ancient volcanic explosions.
New research published in the journal Geology has investigated the Martian mineral deposit, arguing that it is likely to be caused by ancient volcanic explosions early in the history of Mars. The next Mars rover from NASA will explore nearby this site.
Ancient volcanic explosions on early Mars
Christopher Kremer, a graduate student at Brown University who led the work, said: “This is one of the most tangible pieces of evidence yet for the idea that explosive volcanism was more common on early Mars. Understanding how important explosive volcanism was on early Mars is ultimately important for understand the water budget in Martian magma, groundwater abundance and the thickness of the atmosphere.”
According to Brown University, volcanic explosions happen when gases like water vapour are dissolved in underground magna. The dissolved gas has more pressure than the rock above it is able to hold, causing it to explode and expend a cloud of ash and lava into the air.
Researchers believe that in early Martian history, these kind of eruptions happened when there was more water available to mix with magma. As the planet dried, the volcanic explosions would have been replaced by ‘effusive volcanism’, which means the more gentle oozing of lava. There is evidence to support the effusive volcanism phase on Mars, but it has been more difficult to show the early phase of volcanic explosions.
Martian mineral deposit
Kremer and colleagues used high resolution images of the Martian mineral deposit from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to look at the geology of the deposit in-depth.
Kremer explained: “This work departed methodologically from what other folks have done by looking at the physical shape of the terrains that are composed of this bedrock. What’s the geometry, the thickness and orientation of the layers that make it up. We found that the explosive volcanism and ashfall explanation ticks all the right boxes, while all of the alternative ideas for what this deposit might be disagree in several important respects with what we observe from orbit.”