Mysterious Rocky Structure On Mars, Medusae Fossae Formation, Finally Explained By Scientists

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Explosive volcanic eruptions firing streams of burning ash, gas and rocks towards the heavens are the potential cause of a mysterious rocky structure on Mars, the Medusae Fossae Formation, a new study has indicated.

The discovery might enhance scientists’ comprehension of the interior of Mars and its past potential to house extraterrestrial life, reported the authors of the study.

Volcanic eruptions caused the appearance of the mysterious rocky structure on Mars

The Medusae Fossae Formation is a very mysterious and large deposit of soft rocks close to the Red Planet’s equator, with wavy hills and steep mesas. Researchers have seen the Medusae Fossae Formation with NASA’s Mariner spacecraft in the 1960s for the first time but were baffled by the way it was shaped.

Now, the new study indicates that the rocky structure was laid down during volcanic eruptions on the Red Planet, which took place over 3 billion years ago. Medusae Fossae Formation marked a significant milestone in the history of Mars, the study’s researchers commented. The volcanic eruptions that caused the deposit might have produced massive quantities of gases that could have led to a significant climate change and alteration in the Mars’ atmosphere.

Also, these eruptions could have released sufficient water to fill Mars into a planetary ocean of over 9 centimeters thick, said Lujendra Ojha, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and the study’s leading author.

The new study on Medusae Fossae Formation led to new information on the interior of Mars

The new discoveries indicate that the interior of Mars is more complicated than the scientists previously assumed, Ojha believes. Researchers are aware that Mars contains a small amount of water and carbon dioxide in its shell that permits explosive volcanic eruptions to take place on the planet’s surface.

But the planet’s internal structure would have needed vast quantities of volatile gases to generate a rocky deposit as big as the Medusae Fossae Formation.

The new research showcases the potential of gravity research in understanding the rock record of Mars, said Kevin Lewis, a Johns Hopkins University planetary scientist, and the new study’s co-author. “Future gravity surveys could help distinguish between ice, sediment and igneous rocks in the upper crust of the planet,” Lewis said.

 


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