It seems like we hear big news about Mars almost every day, even though the planet’s only known inhabitants are our trusty rover friends. It’s red and dusty now, but scientists know it had water billions of years ago. But what else is going on there? Apparently volcanic activity. New evidence says that Mars featured active volcanoes in “recent” times.
According to CNN, orbiting crafts around Mars sent images to NASA of an area they have never seen before. It suggests that volcanoes were erupting on the planet in the last 50,000 years. Yes, that seems like forever ago. But considering space is billions of years old, it’s pretty darn recent.
The area in question stretches about eight miles long with a 20-mile “volcanic fissure” surrounding it. Researchers believe this area manifested due to an event where expanding gases led to magma exploding. The photos show Mars’ Elysium Planitia region, near its equator. This area is a former hotbed for volcanoes, with pieces where the planet’s crust is cracking.
NASA/JPL/MSSS/The Murray Lab via The University of Arizona
But, what does this really all mean? Well, as reported in Icarus, this discovery suggests that there could be volcanic activity happening on Mars right now. It’s likely happening underground, and is likely to be the cause of seismic activity, which are aptly called Marsquakes.
And there’s a chance that Mars may have been habitable beneath its beautiful red surface and may have some life in that region. Planetary Science Institute research scientist David Horvath spoke further about this in a statement.
“The young age of this deposit absolutely raises the possibility that there could still be volcanic activity on Mars, and it is intriguing that recent Marsquakes detected by the InSight mission are sourced from the Cerberus Fossae…The interaction of ascending magma and the icy substrate of this region could have provided favorable conditions for microbial life fairly recently and raises the possibility of extant life in this region.”
There’s still so much more to learn about Mars. But, if anything, this further confirms to us that the planet is very much so alive.