One of a Red Planet’s many puzzling landforms is substantially 2 billion years comparison than has been thought, suggesting it competence have had a volcanic origin, a new void count finds.
Scientists examine Mars have prolonged been nonplussed by a planet’s Medusae Fossae Formation, a 620-mile-long (1,000-kilometer) deposition nearby a equator. Researchers aren’t certain what a arrangement is done of, and their efforts to find out over a years have been stymied by a thick dirt covering that covers all of Medusae.
“It totally masks a aspect from orbital perspective to spectrometers,” pronounced Mars researcher Jim Zimbelman, of a Center for Earth and Planetary Studies during a Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. “So we have 0 compositional constraints on it.”
Some scientists consider a Medusae arrangement is a outrageous raise of dense volcanic ash, while others think it’s a sweeping of combined wind-blown dust. Over a years, other theories have due an oceanic start for Medusae, or suggested that most of it competence be stoical of Martian H2O ice.
A new study, led by Zimbelman and published currently (May 24) in a biography Science, pushes a Martian oddity’s reputed start scarcely 2 billion years serve behind in time, lending some-more faith to a volcanic charcoal theory. [7 Biggest Mysteries of Mars]
Estimates of Medusae Fossae’s age have altered over a years. Back in a 1980s, scientists suspicion a arrangement was really immature — from a few hundred million to 1 billion years old, Zimbelman said. Studies in a mid-2000s pushed a unspoken arrangement back, final that Medusae is expected about 1.6 billion years old.
Scientists arrived during these severe ages essentially by counting craters, shaped on observations from NASA‘s Viking spacecraft and other Mars-studying probes. The some-more craters pocking a surface, a comparison it tends to be.
While some of these reputed ages differed by some-more than a billion years, a accord had been that Medusae Fossae shaped comparatively recently in geological terms, after Mars had transitioned to a dry and dry world that we know today.
In a new study, Zimbelman and co-author Stephen Scheidt, also of a Center for Earth and Planetary Studies, did an updated void count of a formation’s western reaches. They analyzed images from 3 NASA Mars probes — Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey and a Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The researchers found many formerly undetected craters, suggesting that Medusae Fossae is distant comparison than scientists had imagined. The new void count, Zimbelman said, pushes a Mars landform’s expected age behind into a Hesperian period, a Martian date that dates roughly from 3.8 billion to 3.5 billion years ago.
A wetter Mars
Hesperian Mars was most warmer and wetter. If a Medusae arrangement was laid down in a Hesperian, that’s good news for a charcoal hypothesis, according to Zimbelman.
“Having an communication of H2O and magma or lava, or a volcanic eruption — that’s a good approach to beget ash,” Zimbelman told SPACE.com. “That happens here on Earth a lot.”
“Hot element interacting with a H2O generates, instantly, a garland of steam,” he explained. “And that’s what blasts all into really excellent particles.”
The new examine is distant from a smoking gun. To truly know Medusae Fossae and a history, scientists competence have to examine a arrangement up-close and personal. And they competence get a possibility to do that soon, since Medusae’s western fringes distortion tighten to Gale Crater, where NASA’s 1-ton Curiosity rover is due to land on a night of Aug. 5.
Curiosity’s categorical idea is to consider either a Gale Crater area — including Mount Sharp, a puzzling 3-mile-high (5 km) pile rising from a crater’s core — is, or ever was, able of ancillary microbial life.
But Zimbelman hopes a outrageous corsair can also take a bit of time to assistance solve a poser of Medusae Fossae.
Part of a reason for edition a examine now, he said, is “to only plant a seed in a Curiosity scholarship team’s mind that, when they’re exploring a pile looking for their life features, if they come opposite any of these regularly layered materials that paint a top tools of a pile — that could give us a really initial compositional dimensions of what this things is. That would be huge.”
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