Researchers have discovered a driver of volcanic activity on Mars, a red planet once thought to have no active seismic geology.
Using data from NASA’s InSight rover, which landed for the first time on the fourth planet from the Sun in 2018, planetary scientists at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory have inferred an active mantle cloud, the same type of giant column of hot molten rock that which drives volcanic activity and earthquakes on Earth by pushing hot magma from the mantle closer to the surface crust.
NASA InSight Mole
Their data model suggests the cloud is about 4,000 km in diameter and lies below the northern plane of Mars. The cloud, located in the Elysium Planitia region, could explain the region’s volcanic and seismic activity, according to the research paper published today in Nature Astronomy.
Although there is ample evidence of volcanic activity on the surface of Mars, including the largest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons, most of this activity took place over a 500 million year period, about 4 billion years ago.
But in 2015, NASA rolled out plans to build a probe that could reveal more about geological activity on Earth’s proximal mate. In 2018, the resulting $810 million InSight lander landed with an instrument called the HP3, a thermal “mole” that will “hammer five meters into the Martian subsoil … to learn how much heat is coming from Martian interior, and around.” the planet’s thermals to reveal history.”
Adrien Broquet, post-doctoral researcher and associate professor Jeffrey Andrews-Hanna, analyzed the resulting data and combined it with other sources, including gamma-ray spectrometer data from NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft, and found strong evidence of ongoing geological activity.
They found that Cerberus Fossae, where Insight landed, sits above a mantle plume of hot material 95-285 Kelvin warmer than its surroundings. The presence of an active cloud drives local ongoing geological activity, including the marsquakes detected by InSight, and is the cause of the slow opening of the crust beneath the Cerberus Fossae.
“The ongoing plume activity shows that Mars is not only seismically and volcanically active today, but also has a geodynamically active interior. A cloud beneath Elysium Planitia also indicates that the surface volcanic flows and seismic activity are not isolated events but part of a long-lived, actively maintained regional system affecting the longevity and astrobiological potential of habitable subsurface environments.” , the research paper said.
The researchers noted that the results indicate that Mars is only the third body in the inner Solar System with currently active mantle clouds, after Earth and Venus. ®
https://www.theregister.com/2022/12/05/nasas_thermal_mole_reveals_active/ NASA’s thermal mole reveals active mantle plume on Mars • The Register