Is Mars still volcanically active? New study says maybe

earthsky.org
5 min read
fairly difficult
Scientists studying the ancient Martian Tissint meteorite say they've found new evidence that Mars was volcanically active a few hundred million years ago ... and may still be today.
Is Mars still volcanically active? At first glance, it wouldn't seem to be, since no eruptions have ever been observed from any of the numerous volcanoes dotting its desert surface. Recent findings from NASA's InSight lander have shown that there's still at least some residual geologic activity underground, however, in the form of marsquakes. Now, a newly announced study of a Martian meteorite has provided the first evidence of what scientists call magma convection on Mars – a rising and falling of currents in molten material beneath Mars' surface – that took place in the planet's mantle a few hundred million years ago. Perhaps this slow roiling of magma beneath Mars' crust still occurs today.

The new peer-reviewed findings were published in Meteoritics & Planetary Science on May 7, 2020.

The intriguing results – reported in ScienceAlert by Michelle Star on May 11, 2020 – come from a new study of the Tissint Martian meteorite. A Martian meteorite is a rock ejected from Mars, likely via an impact event, which traversed interplanetary space and ultimately landed on Earth. Found in Morocco on July 18, 2011, the Tissint meteorite originated from deep within Mars. Tissint has been the subject of much study already, but this time, the researchers found something surprising. The meteorite contained crystals of olivine, rock-forming minerals commonly found in Earth's crust.

When those crystals were examined more closely, it was found that they could have only formed in changing temperatures within currents of magma convection.

The crystals are an estimated 674 to 582 million years old, fairly young geologically speaking, so the implication is that Mars was still volcanically active at that time. Planetary geologist Nicola Mari of the University of Glasgow told ScienceAlert:

There was no previous evidence of convection on Mars, but the question 'Is Mars a still volcanically active planet?' was previously investigated using different methods. However, this is the first…
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