May 22, 2024

Higher than Mount Everest – A giant Martian volcano has been overlooked by researchers for decades

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Mars reveals another secret: a giant volcano. Its discovery may be important in the search for life.

The Woodlands – Mars is home to the highest volcano and mountain in the solar system, Olympus Mons (21.3 km high). The largest volcano in the solar system, Alba Patera (1,200 km in diameter), can also be found there. The Red Planet holds more secrets. Now a research team has discovered another supervolcano.

This newly discovered volcano, tentatively called Noctis Volcano, is located east of the Tharsis region, near the Martian equator. With a height of 9,022 metres, and a diameter of 450 kilometres, it is superior to Mount Everest. Surprisingly, the volcano is located in an area regularly imaged from Mars' orbit, as it is close to the massive Valles Marineris rift system and its branch, Noctis Labyrinthus. However, the volcano remained undiscovered for a long time.

The newly discovered volcano is located on the Martian equator, east of Noctis Labyrinthus and west of Valles Marineris. © Background image: NASA/USGS Mars Globe. Geological interpretation and explanations by Pascal Lee and Saurabh Shubham 2024

The giant Martian volcano has been overlooked for decades

Pascal Lee of the SETI Institute, lead author of A Volcano study“We were studying the geology of the area where we found the remains of a glacier last year when we realized we were inside a massive, heavily eroded volcano,” he explains. “A wide range of hydrated minerals are known from this region of Mars, spanning a long period of Martian history,” adds Saurabh Shubham, co-author of the study. He further asserts: “In a sense, this large volcano is a long-awaited ‘conclusive piece of evidence’.”

According to one of them, the volcano's size and complex history of change indicate this notice It indicates that it has been active for a very long time. In the southeastern part of the volcano, the research team discovered relatively fresh, thin volcanic deposits, which were likely covered by glacial ice.

A Martian volcano is taller than Mount Everest

Despite this discovery, many questions surrounding the giant volcano remain unanswered. It is known to have been active for a very long period of time and formed in the early days of Mars, but exactly when is unclear. It is also uncertain whether the volcano is still active and could erupt again. The research team also wonders whether the combination of volcanic heat and water ice might have enabled life in the area.

For this reason, the region could be an interesting place for future research, especially in the search for possible life. The potential presence of water ice at shallow depths at the equator could be of great interest for future space missions, as humans could use the water for themselves and as rocket fuel.

A newly discovered volcano on Mars is a 'key location' for the search for life

“It's a combination of things that makes Noctis Volcano so exceptionally exciting,” researcher Lee asserts. It is an ancient and long-lived volcano, which has eroded so deeply that one can traverse it on foot, car or plane to examine different parts of its interior, take samples and date them, thus tracing the evolution of the “study” of Mars over time. He adds that the interaction of heat with water and ice makes the newly discovered volcano “a key site for astrobiology and our search for signs of life.”

And it doesn't seem
Noctis Volcano does not look like a regular volcano because it is eroding over time. That's why it has only now been discovered on Mars. © Background images: NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) mosaic (CTX) and the Mars Global Survey (MGS) digital elevation model and laser altimeter (MOLA). Geological interpretation and annotations by Pascal Lee and Saurabh Shubham 2024)

The study used, among other things, images of NASA's Mariner 9, Viking 1, Viking 2 and Mars Global Surveyor space probes, as well as the more recent Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter space probes. The European Space Agency's Mars Express probe was used. The oldest of these space probes, Mariner 9, was active until 1972 and shows how long researchers have overlooked the volcano. (unpaid bill)

The editor wrote this article and then used an AI language model to improve at her own discretion. All information has been carefully checked. Find out more about our AI principles here.