NASA to study Mars on Earth with Hunga Tunga volcanic pacific Island

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Island formation in Tonga may give essential clues about Mars
Island formation in Tonga may give essential clues about Mars

New Delhi : A time-lapse video of Tongan Island formation could help scientists in understanding Earth and Mars, Jim Garvin, chief scientist and NASA Goddard.

In the video taken from space, the scientist focused on the evolution of volcanoes to better understand the formation of Earth and Mars.

In December 2014, an underwater volcano amid the islands of Tonga in the South Pacific erupted. When the eruption ended and ashes settled a month later, a new island had emerged, rising 400 feet above the ocean’s surface.

Scientists unofficially named the island Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, a concatenation of two older, uninhabited islands it nestles between.

It is believed that Islands with underwater volcanoes are short-lived but to surprise this island in Tonga has survived much more than expectations. 

The scientists have been tracking how the new land mass has eroded and shifted for around 3 years now. What they have found could make the island a Rosetta Stone to understanding volcanic features on Mars that also appear to have erupted underwater, providing clues about when the red planet was wet several billion years ago.

“We see things that remind us of this kind of volcano at similar scales on Mars,” said Dr. Garvin, the chief scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “And literally, there are thousands of them, in multiple regions.”

Some volcanoes on Mars that appeared as if they had erupted underwater could offer clues. By analyzing these leftover structures, scientists may be able to tease out information like how deep the water was when the volcanoes erupted and how long water persisted.

The Tongan Island happens to be a model for researchers by which they can have a better understanding of the terrain on Mars.

The evolving island can be compared with erosion patterns around Martian volcanoes. If some of the volcanic shapes on Mars matched an intermediate state of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, that could suggest that the water disappeared and the erosion stopped.

“That will give us a window into some of those murkier times of Mars when we think there were standing bodies of water,” Dr. Garvin said.