And now for something completely different…super volcanoes…on Mars.
In this 4:20 minute video from Nature, we are provided yet another reason why the history of Martian geology is intriguing to planetary scientists. If you’ve been paying attention to the beautiful topographic images brought to us by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (Hi-RISE) aboard NASA/JPL/s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter surveying spacecraft,
Victoria Crater [source]
the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) aboard the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft,
Crater in Utopia Planitia on Mars [source]
or the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) via ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft,
Hadley Crater [source]
some of the most striking geologic features are its clearly defined impacts which have certainly shaped the Martian surface…
Clearly identifiable impact craters on the Martian surface [source]
…however, the region of Mars which has drawn the most interest to Earthly geologists is that of Arabia Terra:
From the paper in the journal Nature: Several irregularly shaped craters located within Arabia Terra, Mars, represent a new type of highland volcanic construct and together constitute a previously unrecognized Martian igneous province.
The above deformations are irregular in structure to the previous images (above) which are characteristic of surface impact. What make these land formations worth taking a closer look, however, are not the size or shape, but the surrounding area, as viewed via the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) instrument aboard the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft combined with NASA’s Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) spacecraft, which assisted in the study of space weather and climate change as components to fluctuations in the Martian climate over billions of years.
(1) THEMIS daytime infrared image mosaic showing Eden Patera (at center), one of the proposed volcanic caldera complexes in Arabia Terra, and its surroundings. [source]
(2) MOLA topographic data are draped over THEMIS daytime infrared data, showing the morphology of Eden patera on Mars. Image credit: Joseph R. Michalski and Jacob E. Bleacher. [source]
Getting closer to the geologic feature known as Eden Patera, the MOLA/THEMIS dataset reveals the intriguing morphology, courtesy of visible calderas and lava flows:
a, MOLA topographic data are draped over THEMIS daytime infrared data, showing the morphology of Eden patera. b, Geological mapping reveals the presence of at least three calderas, indicated by coloured shading. c–e, Enlargements of the rectangles in b. The caldera contains evidence for fault blocks that preserve ridged plain lavas on the upper surface (c), a probable vent (d), and a series of terraces that mark lava high stands of a once active lava lake (white arrows) and cracked crust (black arrows) due to the draping of fragile crust onto pre-existing surfaces during lava lake drainage (e). [source]
Other notable features highlighted in the Arabia Terra data are the geologic features of Siloe and Euphrates Patarae:
MOLA data draped over CTX images show the morphologies of Siloe patera (a; rectangle enlarged in b) and Euphrates patera (c; rectangle enlarged in d). [source[
And finally (which is hardly all of the findings within the research paper), links to global geology…
The distribution of major volcanic provinces on Mars in relation to friable and fretted terrain, layered sulphates17 and layered clay-bearing terrains50. [source]
For more on the study of Martian super volcanoes, Bowling Green State University Alumnus Dr. Joseph Michalski led the geology program’s discoveries within Arabia Terra, the ancient volcanic province on Mars; read the article via BGSU HERE.
Stay curious! Explore the history of Mars exploration in Oliver Morton’s ‘Mapping Mars: Science, Imagination, and the Birth of a World’. You’ll never look at our neighboring ‘red planet’ the same way ever again…