Martian rock formation: Scientists open out the mystery box
New Delhi : In an attempt to study the red planet, scientists have found the answer to the mystery behind a rock formation on Mars, a new research claims.
The study conducted by the American Geophysical Union says explosive volcanic eruptions that shot jets of hot ash, rock and gas skyward are the possibly source of a mysterious Martian rock formation.
Authors believe that the new finding would help scientists to understand the interior of Mars along with its past potential for habitability.
Experts say that the Medusae Fossae Formation is a massive, unusual deposit of soft rock near Mars' equator, with undulating hills and abrupt mesas. Scientists first observed the Medusae Fossae with NASA's Mariner spacecraft in the 1960s but were confused about its formation.
Now, the new research suggests that the formation was deposited during explosive volcanic eruptions on the Red Planet more than 3 billion years ago. The formation is about one-fifth as large as the continental United States and 100 times more massive than the largest explosive volcanic deposit on Earth, making it the largest known explosive volcanic deposit in the solar system, according to the authors of the study.
"This is a massive deposit, not only on a Martian scale, but also in terms of the solar system, because we do not know of any other deposit that is like this," said Lujendra Ojha, the lead author of the study.
Also, it is believed that there must be the history of Mars behind the formation of the Medusae Fossae. “The eruptions that created the deposit could have spewed massive amounts of climate-altering gases into Mars's atmosphere and ejected enough water to cover Mars in a global ocean more than 9 centimeters (4 inches) thick,” Ojha said.
Greenhouse gases exhaled during the eruptions that generated the Medusae Fossae could have warmed Mars's 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 Mars's surface and atmosphere.
“Both processes would have affected Mars's potential for habitability,” Ojha said.
The Medusae Fossae Formation consists of hills and mounds of sedimentary rock straddling Mars's equator. Sedimentary rock forms when rock dust and debris accumulate on a planet's surface and cement over time.
Scientists were aware about Medusae Fossae for decades, but were not sure whether wind, water, ice or volcanic eruptions deposited rock debris in that location.
Earlier, a radar measurements of Mars's surface suggested the Medusae Fossae had an unusual composition, but scientists were unable to determine whether it was made of highly porous rock or a mixture of rock and ice.
This study of Martin Rock Formation appears in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets