Mystery Unfolds About Martian Rock Formation

22 Juin, 2018, 13:28 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Space								Image Source NASA  JPL  Arizona State University

Furthermore, Mars's interior may still contain massive amounts of unpredictable toxic gasses because only substantial erratic gasses could have given birth to unusual rock formation as odd as the Medusae Fossae Formation.

The Medusae Fosse Formation has baffled scientists since it was spotted by the Mariner spacecraft in the 60s (as well as inspiring lots of bonkers YouTube videos). They found that the density of the rocks of the structure, only two thirds corresponds to the rest of the planet's crust, and this means that they are of volcanic origin, and the Medusae Fossae - the result of catastrophic eruptions.

Planetary scientists also found that the Medusae Fossae formation occurred about three billion years ago. As per the study, the MFF comprises of sedimentary deposits, which are nearly hundred times larger in comparison to the biggest volcanic deposit witnessed on the Earth.

Planetary scientists, Lujendra Ojha, at the John Hopkins University Baltimore says, "This is the most massive explosion and rock formation of the solar system as we are still ignorant about any other till date".

The study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research on May 22 said the formation of the Medusae Fossae marked a milestone in Mars' history. They say that it's possible that the violent eruptions ejected water that rose up to over 4 inches high throughout Mars.

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"Greenhouse gases exhaled during the eruptions that spawned the Medusae Fossae could have warmed Mars' surface enough for water to remain liquid at its surface, but toxic volcanic gases like hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide would have altered the chemistry of the planet's surface and atmosphere. Both processes would have affected Mars' potential for habitability".

Called the Medusae Fossae Formation, the huge and unusual deposit of soft rock lies near Mars' equator, and consists of hills and abrupt mesas.

The ash spewed out by these eruptions would have cemented into rock over time, according to Ojha, but around half of it has eroded away since then, leaving behind the distinctive undulating hills and valleys that can be seen today. Equally murky is how it got there, with different combinations of wind, water, ice or volcanic eruptions suggested. To answer this puzzle, the authors of the new study measured the density of the rock formation using gravity data and radar data from various Mars orbiter spacecraft. They also used radar and gravity data in combination to show the Medusae Fossae's density can not be explained by the presence of ice, which is much less dense than rock. Volcanoes erupt in part because gases like carbon dioxide and water vapor dissolved in magma force the molten rock to rise to the surface.

If you distribute Medusae Fossae over the entire globe 9.7-meter thick surface layer, concluded Ojha. "Future gravity surveys could help distinguish between ice, sediments and igneous rocks in the upper crust of the planet", Lewis said.

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